How Many People Are Affected by Trump's Travel Ban? | NBC Southern California
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How Many People Are Affected by Trump's Travel Ban?

"There are a lot of effects that are hard to quantify, and it's going to go way beyond the people from those seven countries"

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    President Donald Trump has defended his controversial travel ban as being narrowly focused.

    He has tweeted that "only 109 out of 325,000" people were detained and held for questioning, referring to the first, chaotic day after he signed his executive order. It halts the United States refugee program for four months and stops travellers from entering the country seven majority-Muslim countries — Iran, Iraq, Libya, Somalia, Sudan, Syria and Yemen — for 90 days.

    But the order seems to affect the tens of thousands of people who were issued visas by the United States from those seven countries. They can't return to the U.S. or fear they won't be able to return if they left, a dramatic change for America's borders that has sparked protests and legal action across the country. 

    In 2015, the U.S. issued nearly 90,000 visas to people from the affected countries, the most recent year for which State Department data was available. Over 100,000 visas were issued last year, according to the Council on Foreign Relations.

    One of those stuck abroad is Khaled Almilaji, a Syrian doctor who has been attending Brown University in Providence, Rhode Island, on a scholarship. He's studying ways to rebuild his country's health system after risking his life to provide medical care during Syria's civil war, coordinating a campaign that vaccinated 1.4 million Syrian children.

    He told The Associated Press that his pregnant wife remains in the United States while he's stuck in Turkey. 

    "It is really sad where the world is going to," Almilaji said.

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    He's not alone. U.S. companies and universities have warned staff members and students not to travel abroad if they are affected by the executive order.

    Mary Sue Coleman, president of the Association of American Universities, said that it was in the nation's best interest to attract scholars and innovators instead of barring their entry.

    "The order is stranding students who have been approved to study here and are trying to get back to campus, and threatens to disrupt the education and research of many others," Coleman said in a statement.

    And the number of visa holders affected by the ban don't take into account the many refugees who also would have come into the country if not for Trump's order. Syrian refugees are barred indefinitely under the order.

    About 85,000 refugees were admitted to the U.S. in 2016, according to the Department of State's Refugee Processing Center.

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    (Published Monday, Jan. 30, 2017)

    Edward Alden, an immigration expert with the Council on Foreign Relations, said it will be unlikely to get a final count of the number of people affected by the order. 

    "There are a lot of effects that are hard to quantify, and it's going to go way beyond the people from those seven countries," Alden said, suggesting it may change the perception immigrants have of America as a welcoming place.

    "We also don't know that this is going to be temporary. This could easily turn into something more permanent," he added.

    Nevertheless, the Trump administration has consistently defended its actions as limited in scope.

    Defending the action on Monday amid a rocky rollout, presidential advisor Kellyanne Conway called the ban a “temporary and mild inconvenience” and press secretary Sean Spicer said it was a “small price to pay” to keep Americans safe.

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    A Customs and Border Patrol official gave updated figures for the number of people affected by the ban on Tuesday: 721 travelers with visas from affected countries weren't allowed onto flights to the United States with three days of the order, while waivers were given to 1,060 lawful permanent residents of the U.S., known as green card holders, and 75 waivers to visa holders.

    Spicer said Wednesday that waivers would no longer be required for green card holders, the latest change to the implementation of the order.

    Refugees who had planned travel prior to the executive order from areas where there would otherwise suffer "undue hardship" are still being considered for waivers, officials said. Customs and Border Patrol expects 872 refugees to arrive this week, and waivers will continued to be processed for them.

    Trump has said that visas will once again be issued to all countries "once we are sure we have reviewed and implemented the most secure policies." 

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    (Published Sunday, Jan. 29, 2017)

    But to Alden, the effects of the temporary travel ban will be felt long after it's lifted.

    "I think we can say for sure that admission numbers are going to be much lower this year," Alden said. "But the impact will be a lot broader than the numbers will indicate."