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February 7, 2017

DHS Secretary Says Immigration Ban Will Be Permanent

Washington, DC – Contradicting past claims that the entry ban for seven predominantly Muslim countries would be temporary, a top administration official testified today that the ban may be permanent for some countries.

In testimony before the House Committee on Homeland Security, Secretary of Homeland Security John Kelly acknowledged that the ban on entry is likely to be extended indefinitely beyond the 90-day period originally envisioned in President Trump’s executive order.

“I would be less than honest if I told you that of the seven countries all of them will come off that status in 80 days or so,” said Kelly, emphasizing that U.S.-designated state sponsors of terrorism, failed states, and countries without U.S. embassies would likely not be removed from the list.

According to Kelly, “when you don’t have an embassy there’s no Americans to sit there and do the interviews, the consular interviews, to start the process of determining if this person is the kind of person we want to come to our country.” He did not acknowledge that consular interviews are required in such cases. For example, Iranians who are granted a U.S. visa are subjected to consular interviews, usually conducted in Dubai or Yerevan.

Despite the already extensive vetting of the tens of thousands of Iranian travelers who come to the U.S. each year, Kelly’s remarks indicate that the administration is unlikely to approve the lifting of the ban for Iranians. Given that Iran is both designated as a state sponsor of terror due to its support for groups like Hezbollah and has no U.S. embassy or formal diplomatic relations with the U.S., Kelly’s comments were the administration’s first public acknowledgement that the ban may be permanent for Iranians.

According to the Executive Order, the travel ban on the seven countries will initially be for ninety days. However, at the end of this period the Secretary of Homeland Security will submit a list of countries recommended for inclusion on an indefinite travel ban via Presidential proclamation, based on the countries’ inability or unwillingness to provide information requested by the U.S. per the order. Thus, any nation that does not comply with U.S. demands would be subject to an indefinite or permanent ban on its nationals entering the U.S. Iran has indicated it will not comply with U.S. demands to submit information and has declared Trump’s order illegal.

Kelly’s statements during the hearing confirm assumptions that the ban will be made permanent and that the Trump administration’s protestations to the contrary are false and misleading. Presently, the Trump administration has been barred from implementing the order due to a temporary restraining order, though the administration has appealed the decision. If the earlier ruling halting the ban is overturned, the ban would go back into force immediately.

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