Having backtracked on its proposal to ban green card holders from 7 mostly Muslim countries from entering the US, it now appears that the Trump admin has softened its stance regarding the admission of refugees, and according to Reuters, citing an internal DHS document, the U.S. government has granted waivers to let 872 refugees into the country this week, despite Trump's executive order on Friday temporarily banning entry of refugees from any country.
It is unknown if there is a link between this waiver, and Trump's announcement late last night to replace the acting director of the DHS' Immigration and Customs Enforcement.
According to a Homeland Security official, the waiver was granted after the refugees were considered "in transit" and had already been cleared for resettlement before the ban took effect. Refugees preparing for resettlement typically have severed personal ties and relinquished their possessions, leaving them particularly vulnerable if their plans to depart are suddenly canceled.
The waivers, granted by the State Department and the Department of Homeland Security (DHS), came amid international protests against Trump's rushed executive order. Critics said the order in some cases was not clearly communicated to the agencies responsible for implementing it. It was not known if additional waivers would be granted, the official said. The document did not give the nationalities of the refugees who will be admitted into the United States.
Over the weekend, non-refugee visitors from seven majority-Muslim countries also targeted in Trump's executive order were detained, deported and in some cases blocked from boarding flights to the United States. The countries covered by the traveler ban were Iran, Iraq, Syria, Sudan, Somalia, Libya and Yemen.
As Reuters adds, the internal DHS document said that between late Friday and early Monday 348 visa holders were prevented from boarding U.S.-bound flights. In addition, more than 200 people landed in the United States but were denied entry, the document showed. More than 735 people were pulled aside for questioning by U.S. Customs and Border Protection officers in airports, including 394 legal permanent U.S. residents holding green cards, over the same time period.
Trump said the executive order he signed on Friday was designed to protect the United States "from foreign terrorist entry." The order stopped all refugee admissions for 120 days while government officials determine how to ensure that any refugees admitted do not pose a threat.
The 872 refugees to be admitted this week, under the waivers, were screened using Obama administration procedures, which typically take two years and include several interviews and a background check. The DHS said on Sunday night that green card holders would be allowed to board U.S.-bound flights, but would be subjected to additional scrutiny upon arrival.