Confusion Reigns At Airports Over Travel Ban

by Richard D’Ambrosio

Travelers based in the United States still faced confusion as the Trump Administration’s executive order restraining travel from seven countries ensnared U.S. green card holders, dual citizens and others with legal visas in enhanced screening

On Saturday green-card holders were being barred from entry at airports; airlines and airport officials told the press that initially they had inconsistent information from federal authorities. One Department of Homeland Security official stated that by the end of the day, more than 100 travelers had been denied entry.

Then, on Saturday night a New York federal judge temporarily blocked part of Trump's order, ruling that citizens of the seven countries who hold valid visas and have already arrived in the United States could not be deported.

Currently, green card holders returning to the United States will go through enhanced screening and national security checks at their arrival airport. Homeland Security says anyone without “a significant criminal history or links to terrorism” will be allowed back in the country after going through screening.

By 3 p.m. Sunday, more than 170 green card holders had been waived in, Homeland Security said.

Meanwhile, the State Department said that travelers “who have nationality or dual nationality” from one of the seven countries “will not be permitted for 90 days to enter the United States or be issued an immigrant or non-immigrant visa” and “those nationals or dual nationals holding valid immigrant or non-immigrant visas will not be permitted to enter the United States during this period."

Politicians and others were asking for greater clarity from the government.

"We all share a desire to protect the American people, but this executive order has been poorly implemented, especially with respect to green card holders," said Senate Foreign Relations Chairman Bob Corker Sunday in a statement. "The administration should immediately make appropriate revisions, and it is my hope that following a thorough review and implementation of security enhancements that many of these programs will be improved and reinstated."

As CNN reported on Sunday, administration officials seemed to contradict themselves during appearances on the Sunday news shows. They noted how on NBC, White House chief of staff Reince Priebus “said the order ‘doesn't affect’ green card holders, then later said ‘of course’ it affects green card holders from Iran, Iraq, Syria, Sudan, Libya, Yemen and Somalia” (the seven countries under a 90-day temporary hold).

Several news sources tried to relate to the public the process for U.S. green card holders from the seven countries: Iran, Iraq, Sudan, Syria, Somalia, Libya and Yemen. According to CNN, for example, upon arrival in the United States, green card holders will be fingerprinted and asked a series of questions to determine their security risk.

Meanwhile corporations and institutions like universities were cautioning staff with citizenship or ties to one of the seven banned countries from leaving the United States.

At the New York Times Travel Show on Friday, Steve Spivak, Tauck’s VP of global sales, made what now seems a prescient comment about the role of the U.S. traveler—and the travel industry in general—at times of political conflict.  “A few short years ago Americans didn't feel so welcome around the world, and the job of the USTOA is going to be incredibly challenge [in this political environment]. The travel industry, the greatest ambassadors America has right now, must make sure the world knows we are loving and open, and make sure that people outside America feel as welcome coming here as we hope to feel traveling elsewhere.”

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