According to the State Department, President Donald Trump’s travel ban has kept more than 30,000 people from entering the United States since being enacted from the Oval Office. In testimony before House Judiciary lawmakers, State Department official Edward Ramotowski confirmed that “there’s approximately 31,334 refusals up to Sept. 14, 2019” thanks to the moratorium.
The ban, which affects Iran, Venezuela, North Korea, Syria, Yemen, Libya, and Somalia, was the subject of a three-hour hearing which the Democrats called: “Oversight of the Trump Administration’s Muslim Ban.” Sharp-eyed readers will note that, given the countries included (and the ones that aren’t), this title makes little sense.
Much of the hearing seemed designed for Democrats to attack the State Department’s procedures as they pertain to granting waivers to those who qualify. While administration officials acknowledged that very few individuals qualified for these waivers, they insisted that those that were granted were handed out in accordance with the law.
This drew extra scrutiny from Rep. Ilhan Omar (D-MN), who said: “Former consular officer Christopher Richards, who resigned in protest of the Muslim ban, said in an op-ed that the consular officers were not able to issue waivers on their own, that they had to get approval from the State Department. Would that be you? Do you give that approval?”
“No, that’s not correct,” Ramotowski replied. “Consular officers make the decision of the first two prongs of the waiver, national interest and undue hardship, and then the interagency security review provides the guidance on the security prong.”
When Omar questioned whether President Trump or anyone in the White House had a role in determining whether waivers were granted, Ramotowski said, “Not at all.”
But that didn’t slow Omar, who said that a former State Department official named Sarah Gartner said that “officers are implicitly or explicitly pressured to deny waivers.”
“We are not implicitly or explicitly pressuring anyone to act in any way contrary to the law,” he insisted.
And, frankly, what if they are. Is not the point of the ban to keep people out? If the point were simply to grant waivers all day long, then we might as well scrap the policy altogether. But of course, that’s exactly what Omar and her Democrat colleagues want, so it’s no surprise that they should focus on this meaningless aspect of the order.
Meanwhile, dozens of majority-Muslim countries continue to enjoy free travel to the United States. But that’s one of those inconvenient facts that Democrats would rather not talk about.