More than 30,000 people have been denied entry into the United States as a result of President Trump’s travel ban, according to a State Department official who testified on Capitol Hill Tuesday.
Edward Ramotowski, deputy assistant secretary for Visa Services in the Bureau of Consular Affairs, told the House Judiciary Committee “there’s approximately 31,334 refusals up to Sept. 14, 2019,” The Hill reported.
The three-hour hearing titled "Oversight of the Trump Administration’s Muslim Ban" gave Democratic lawmakers the opportunity to criticize the travel restrictions currently in place on people from Iran, Syria, Yemen, Libya, Somalia, and North Korea, as well as officials from Venezuela.
All of those countries hold a Muslim majority with the exception of Venezuela and North Korea. The Trump administration denies that the ban targets Muslims despite the president promising during the 2016 election that he would enact a "total and complete shutdown of Muslims entering the United States," according to The Hill.
Ramotowski said that some visa applicants from restricted countries may be eligible for a State Department waiver or one of the department’s exceptions to the ban, CNN reported. In response to a question from Rep. Pramila Jayapal, D-Wash., Ramotowski said “more than 7,600 waivers have been granted.” He said about 72,000 people from restricted countries have applied for visas in total since the ban was first put in place and about 15,000 applications are still being processed.
During the hearing, Jayapal quoted data released by the State Department in February that showed between Dec. 8, 2017 and Oct. 31, 2018 only about 5 percent of visa applicants from restricted nations were granted a waiver. Another 29 percent remained in limbo during the security process.
Rep. Ilhan Omar, D-Minn., who is Muslim, also challenged Ramotowski and suggested officials received pressure from the White House to deny waiver requests. Subcommittee Chairwoman Rep. Zoe Lofgren, D-Calif., said the waiver process “appears to be something of a sham,” and House Judiciary Committee Chairman Jerrold Nadler, D-N.Y., described it as a “phony.”
Ramotowski denied Omar’s allegations and said that while the ban has opponents “fundamentally it’s designed to try to keep the United States safe."
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The travel ban faced a number of legal challenges, with the Supreme Court upholding the latest and third version of the order in a June 2018 decision. Iraq, Chad, and Sudan had been on restricted lists, but were removed. Democrats have sought to overturn the ban and introduced the "No Ban Act" to both chambers of Congress in April, CNN reported. The measure is not expected to make it past the GOP-controlled Senate.
Fox News' Ronn Blitzer contributed to this report.