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Governor Terry McAuliffe and AG Mark Warner at Dulles International Airport (courtesy photo)

As U.S. Senators Mark Warner and Tim Kaine (D-VA) sent a letter to Department of Homeland Security Secretary John Kelly requesting clarification on U.S. President Donald Trump’s Executive Order 13769 banning certain individuals from entering the country, Virginia Governor Terry McAuliffe has also asked for clarification.

Warner and Kaine demanded answers about the status of travelers being detained at Dulles International and other airports across the country as a result of President Trump’s executive order.  

“In the two days since the issuance of the executive order, there has been widespread confusion and distress, as well as the reported detention of legal permanent residents at many major U.S. international airports, including Dulles International Airport in Virginia,” the senators wrote. “Our staffs have worked diligently throughout the weekend to render assistance to distressed families, but it is completely unacceptable that public guidance from the Department of Homeland Security was nonexistent, incomplete or contradictory.”

Senators Warner and Kaine requested answers and information on the following:

  • A complete list of the names of individuals and their country of origin, detained at airports in Virginia, as well as the reason for their detention and where they are being held
  • Whether DHS will honor the rulings of the Eastern District of Virginia, the Eastern District of New York, and the United States District Court for the District of Massachusetts or continue to enforce an order that has been expressly stayed
  • Information about the additional security checks that DHS is claiming are needed before nationals of the identified countries can enter the United States
  • How, if the temporary restraining orders are lifted and the EO is to be enforced, certain rules and regulations would apply to dual nationals, lawful permanent residents/green card holders, pending visa applicants, joining relatives, and current visa holders 

“The broadness of the EO suggests this is a policy targeting Muslims, an approach that national security experts have testified would harm, not help, our national security interests,” the senators continued. “We join the interfaith community in Virginia and around the country in objecting to these moves, and we will work in Congress to block an effort that trades dubious increases in our national security for certain alienation of partners with whom we must cooperate to address terrorism. We urge you in the strongest terms to provide immediate clarity to Congress and the American people.”

The McAuliffe administration, too, requested clarification.

“Today my Chief of Staff Paul Reagan sent a letter to the White House Director of Intergovernmental Affairs seeking answers to several critical questions about the President’s Executive Order banning entry for refugees and travelers from certain Muslim countries,” said McAuliffe.

“This Executive Order is antithetical to the values upon which our nation was founded. It sends a message to the world that people who are fleeing religious persecution, simply traveling to work or meeting loved ones are not welcome in America. It will certainly be used by a small minority of extremists as a recruitment and radicalization tool to grow their numbers and threaten the security of our sons and daughters, both abroad and here at home.

“I stand with millions of Americans who believe this ban will do our nation far greater harm than good, and I urge President Trump and his team to rescind it.

“In the event the Muslim and refugee ban remains in place, my administration is seeking more information about how the plan is being implemented.

“In the days since this ban was signed, remarkably little information has been shared with the public (or the elected leaders of the states most affected) about how the policy is being implemented and what measures are being taken to protect the civil and human rights of the individuals being detained and deported.

“On behalf of the people of Virginia, I have requested answers to the following questions:

  1. How many travelers who were bound for the United States remain detained at the Customs and Border Control facilities at Dulles International Airport?
  2. Can you assure the Virginia public of the health and general welfare of the individuals who have been detained? And what, if any, arrangements are being made to accommodate people with special  medical needs?
  3. Can you state with certainty that all of these persons have access to counsel in accordance with U.S. District Court Judge Brinkema’s order of last night?
  4. What is the immediate plan and approach toward any persons whose status remains uncertain?

“My administration is awaiting answers to these critical questions and will make responses available to the public as they are provided,” McAuliffe said.

A copy of the Warner / Kaine letter is below:

January 29, 2017

The Honorable John F. Kelly
Secretary
United States Department of Homeland Security
Washington, D.C. 20528

Dear Secretary Kelly,

On January 27, 2017, President Trump issued an executive order entitled “Protecting the Nation From Foreign Terrorist Entry Into the United States”. The order temporarily halts the entry of all people from at least seven Muslim-majority countries: Iran, Iraq, Syria, Sudan, Somalia, Libya and Yemen, suspends the Syrian refugee program indefinitely, and bans the admission of all refugees to the United States for four months.

In the two days since the issuance of the executive order (EO), there has been widespread confusion and distress, as well as the reported detention of legal permanent residents at many major U.S. international airports, including Dulles International Airport in Virginia. Our staffs have worked diligently throughout the weekend to render assistance to distressed families, but it is completely unacceptable that public guidance from the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) was nonexistent, incomplete or contradictory. We are deeply concerned about the uncertainty posed by this EO, and ultimately its potential to undermine our democracy.

The President stated Friday that his EO is not intended to be a “Muslim ban” or “target Muslims,” and during your confirmation hearing you expressed commitment to protecting religious liberty. However, as issued, the EO indefinitely suspends the Syrian refugee program and pauses immigrant and nonimmigrant entry of people from Muslim-majority countries—actions that run directly counter to our American values. 

To that end, we would like an immediate response to the following questions:

(1)    We request on a daily, ongoing basis a complete list of the names of individuals, and their country of origin, detained at airports in Virginia, as well as the reason for their detention and where they are being held. This list should include individuals detained and subsequently transferred to Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) custody.

(2)    On January 29th, DHS issued a press release that appears to be a commitment to disobey orders of federal courts in Virginia, Massachusetts, and New York. In particular it says, it “will continue to enforce” an EO that has been expressly stayed. Will DHS honor the rulings of the Eastern District of Virginia, the Eastern District of New York, and the United States District Court for the District of Massachusetts, or will you continue to enforce an executive order that has been expressly stayed?

(3)    What, exactly, are the additional security checks that DHS is claiming are needed before nationals of the identified countries can enter the United States?

(4)    We have a number of specific questions about how, if the temporary restraining orders are lifted and the EO is to be enforced, certain rules and regulations would apply. We understand that DHS issued guidance to U.S. Customs and Border Protection (CBP), but we have not seen any public copies of that guidance. There are several categories of people affected:

  1. Dual nationals—CBP is applying this EO to “dual citizens” and “dual nationals.” What is DHS’ position on this? We understand that this applies to dual nationals of countries other than the United States. Can you confirm this does not apply to U.S. citizens, even those who are dual citizens of the seven countries?
  2. Lawful permanent residents/green card holders—DHS has stated that it will refuse entry to lawful permanent residents and green card holders who are citizens of these countries. Is that correct, and on what legal basis (meeting with due process requirements) are they doing so?
  3. Pending applicants—The EO states that the Department of State (State) should not issue immigrant visas to applicants to immigrate from abroad. How will the EO affect pending immigrant visa petitions for citizens of banned countries here in the United States eligible to adjust? If immigrant and nonimmigrant visas have already been issued, and those applicants have already gone through stringent criminal and background checks through State, will those visa applicants suffer?
  4. Joining relatives—Will DHS and State consider people coming to join a relative already here (e.g. Syrians applying for L-2s to join an L-1 relative) differently?
  5. Visa holders—With regard to nonimmigrant visa holders, is it the intention of DHS, State, and CBP to revoke nonimmigrant and/or immigrant visas to do an “end run” around the restraining orders?

The broadness of the EO suggests this is a policy targeting Muslims, an approach that national security experts have testified would harm, not help, our national security interests. We join the interfaith community in Virginia and around the country in objecting to these moves, and we will work in Congress to block any effort that trades dubious increases in our national security for certain alienation of partners with whom we must cooperate to address terrorism. We urge you in the strongest terms to provide immediate clarity to Congress and the American people.  

Sincerely,

Mark R. Warner                                                          Tim Kaine
United States Senator                                               United States Senator

 

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