Virginia Sen. Tim Kaine listens to immigration lawyers at Dulles International Airport on Jan. 30.
Senators Tim Kaine (D-VA) and Mark Warner (D-VA) released a letter Jan. 31 addressed to new Department of Homeland Security Director John Kelly asking for clarification on President Donald Trump’s executive order temporarily banning travel from seven predominantly Muslim countries.
In the letter, dated Jan. 29, the senators ask for a complete list of individuals detained at Virginia’s airports as well as the reason for being held. In the first day of the new order at least two green card holders from Yemen were detained at Dulles International Airport and later deported to Ethiopia, and multiple lawyers and witnesses at the airport said others had been detained, sometimes for up to 20 hours without food, water or legal aid. At a press conference held at Dulles on Jan. 30, Kaine said he was informed that no one was currently detained there.
“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.”
The letter asked for clarification on the order, and if it pertained to all green card holders, dual nationals, visa holders, pending applicants and those joining relatives already in the country. Kaine joined many members of both parties in congress not only condemning the executive order but it’s implementation. The order, which opponents including Kaine have called a ban on Muslims, led to widespread protests at airports and confusion for many travelers from the impacted countries.
“There are so many things wrong with this order,” Kaine said at the press conference, adding that it was “sprung with very little thought about consequence.”
Trump’s order initially banned all travel from Iran, Iraq, Libya, Somalia, Sudan, Syria and Yemen. Later clarifications from Kelly in a statement said “lawful permanent residents,” which include green card and some visa holders, would be allowed in the country. The Trump Administration has defended the order, saying it was necessary for national security and was placed on seven countries previously identified as sources of terror under the presidency of Barack Obama.
In a statement from the White House, Trump denied this was a ban on a specific religion.
“This is not about religion – this is about terror and keeping our country safe,” the statement said. “There are over 40 different countries worldwide that are majority Muslim that are not affected by this order. We will again be issuing visas to all countries once we are sure we have reviewed and implemented the most secure policies over the next 90 days.”