- The Washington Times - Tuesday, January 31, 2017

Homeland Security publicly acknowledged Tuesday that the rollout of the extreme vetting executive order was troubled and Iraqi translators who aided the U.S. war effort were denied entry, contradicting the White House, which said things had gone exactly as planned.

Despite the hiccups in communications, officials said, far more people have earned waivers to enter the U.S. than have been denied despite President Trump’s order Friday.

Out of about 500,000 foreign travelers who tried to come to the U.S. in the first 72 hours since the temporary travel ban was imposed, just 721 were stopped from boarding their flights. Meanwhile, 1,060 green card holders and another 75 people with other types of visas were granted waivers allowing them to make the trip and be admitted once they arrived, said Kevin McAleenan, acting commissioner of U.S. Customs and Border Protection.

Mr. McAleenan did acknowledge problems with the rollout, saying some translators early on were blocked from boarding their flights. He blamed miscommunication within the administration and with airlines, saying carriers “overinterpreted” the executive order.

“I think it’s fair to acknowledge that communications, publicly and interagency, haven’t been the best in the initial rollout of this process,” he said.

That stood in contrast to senior administration officials, who over the weekend insisted that the process went well.

“The exemptions and waiver process that we’ve put in place are already working exactly as intended,” one official said in briefing reporters on Sunday.

The rollout has marred Mr. Trump’s early presidency, with Democrats citing it as a reason to block his Cabinet nominees and liberal groups saying it should derail much of the rest of his agenda.

Democrats said the pause “could be deadly” for some of those who are put on hold.

Sen. Richard J. Durbin, Illinois Democrat, pointed to a 9-year-old Somali child waiting in a refugee camp in Ethiopia to come to the U.S. for heart treatment.

“Do we feel any safer because these humanitarian cases are being denied access to the United States? I certainly don’t,” Mr. Durbin said.

Lawyers surged to airports to try to help those who were snared in the early going, and so did protesters.

Homeland Security Secretary John F. Kelly said they, not his agents, were responsible for the mess that drew so much public attention.

“The only chaos they saw was what was taking place at other parts of the airport,” Mr. Kelly said.

He had to issue guidance over the weekend to clarify that green card holders were to be admitted despite the wording of the policy.

Mr. McAleenan said they also saw some holders of the special immigrant visa, given to translators and other Iraqis who aided U.S. troops, denied their seats on airplanes.

He said Homeland Security is now trying to track down those folks to assure them they can try again and will be approved.

He and Mr. Kelly also rejected accusations that U.S. Customs and Border Protection officers violated judges’ orders. The two leaders said they didn’t know of any instances of willful violations.

The botched rollout had many Republicans publicly breaking from Mr. Trump and joining Democrats in calling for a do-over or for Congress to get involved.

But House Speaker Paul D. Ryan, Wisconsin Republican, said Tuesday that while the rollout was “regrettable,” the policy is legal and is the right thing to do to try to head off a terrorist attack.

“There is nothing wrong with taking a pause and making sure we have the proper vetting in place,” he said.

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