Of the more than 8,400 people who applied for U.S. visas from countries listed in President Donald Trump’s latest version of the Muslim ban, only about 100 individuals were granted waivers, Reuters reported Tuesday.
The news stands in stark contrast to the Trump administration’s boasting of “a robust waiver provision” that would allow exceptions to the ban affecting all nationals of Chad, Iran, Libya, North Korea, Somalia, Syria, and Yemen, six of which have Muslim-majority populations. Venezuelan officials, who were also targeted in the ban, could similarly apply for a visa if eligible for a waiver.
According to State Department data obtained by Reuters, between Dec. 8 and Jan. 8, only 128 applicants qualified for waivers under various exemptions under the ban, such as individuals with a close family member in the United States, individuals who can demonstrate that denial of entry would cause undue hardship, and those with significant business obligations. The data states that, as of Feb. 15, only two individuals had their waivers approved, but according to a State Department statement issued to Reuters on Tuesday, 100 additional waivers have since been issued, or fewer than one percent of all visa applicants.
Sens. Chris Van Hollen (D-MD) and Jeff Flake (R-AZ) in January requested information from the State and Homeland Security Departments about the waivers upon receiving “reports of the near uniform denial of waivers for visas,” they wrote in a letter to the agencies, Reuters reported.
“The Trump administration claims that the waiver system can be used by people who pose no threat to our country … But these facts show that system is a farce designed to hide President Trump’s true purpose,” Van Hollen said in a statement to Reuters.
Trump signed the most recent ban in September 2017, following two earlier versions that were challenged in court. On its face, the new ban seemed not as broad in scope, thanks to the executive order’s provision that waivers would be issued on a case-by-case basis. But the new State Department data proves that much of the intent is still the same. While the Trump administration has repeatedly denied that the ban is specifically targeted against Muslims, these numbers — as well as Trump’s own history of Islamophobic comments — prove otherwise.