Since the Trump administration, several Executive Orders (EO) have been issued affecting immigrants and their rights. The EO which has drawn the most attention is titled “Protecting the Nation from Foreign Terrorist Entry into the United States,” and is most commonly known as the Muslim and Refugee ban.
Deserving of the spotlight it has received, I do feel the need to discuss it, as well as the earlier EOs, as to provide an overview of the most recent updates. Please note, if there are any further changes following this entry I will do my best to update as quickly as possible. My goal is to relay as accurately as possible the newest information as to better prepare, protect and defend those in the community.
As specified above, the most controversial EO explicitly suspended the entry of many immigrant and nonimmigrant visa holders from entering the United States. The EO went into effect immediately directly affecting seven (7) predominantly Muslim countries including Iraq, Iran, Libya, Somalia, Sudan, Syria and Yemen for ninety (90) days. The EO directly suspended U.S. Refugee Admissions Program (USRAP) for 120 days and indefinitely suspended the entry of Syrian refugees.
The undeniable chaos resulting from the issuance of this EO, and inconsistent and fragmented application by governmental officials, left many in a state of uncertainty, fear and justified anger. These vetted immigrant and nonimmigrants visa holders were denied entry, detained without time restrictions, denied access to counsel, pressured to sign detrimental documents and most of all were helpless without means to defend their lives. Lawful Permanent Residents (LPR), or green card holders, were initially denied admission, and allegedly pressured by Customs and Border Protection (CBP) to sign Form I-407, Record of Abandonment of Lawful Permanent Resident Status. Department of Homeland Security (DHS) recently announced LPRs would no longer be subject to the travel ban. Furthermore, it was subsequently announced Iraqi Nationals with a valid Special Immigrant Visa to enter the U.S. could apply for admission because it was deemed to be in the national interest.
The State Department declared 60,000 visas had been revoked since the EO was issued while sources from the Department of Justice claim the number is closer to 100,000. The Trump administration has remained strangely quiet in offering their accounting of how many individuals have been affected by the EO.
Over the last weeks, we have watched our courts defend our laws and allege the unconstitutionality of the EO issuance. We have heard deep disapproval from our federal courts in various jurisdictions, and currently a District Judge in Washington state has imposed a nationwide halt on the implementation of the EO. As expected, President Trump expressed his strong disfavor towards the halt in enforcing his EO, and the Department of Justice appealed the ruling to the 9th U.S. Circuit Court. The importance of this ruling by U.S. District Judge James Robart is the recognition and enforcement by CBP. The federal agency swiftly communicated with U.S. airlines confirming previously banned travelers would be permitted once again to board flights to the U.S. The prompt enforcement of the court ruling has given hope and momentary relief to both immigrants and advocates.
Presently, the 9th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals has denied the Department of Justice appeal to immediately reinstate the Trump travel ban thus affirming the travel ban is still suspended for a bit longer. Department of State (DOS) confirmed provisionally revoked visas have been reversed and are valid for travel. Additionally, CBP announced individuals whose visas had been physically cancelled due to the travel ban, absent other disqualifying factors or inadmissibilities, would receive an I-193 waiver upon arrival into the United States. We wait in anticipation as the legal battle continues and we remember the purpose behind the creation of checks and balances between the branches. There is a strong likelihood this controversial EO will rise to the U.S. Supreme Court and our Justices will be asked to make a determination upon its legality.
In further dissection of the EO, Department of State confirmed the EO will not expand to include other countries, such as Venezuela and Colombia, to enforce visa revocations and travel bans. USCIS announced the travel ban EO would not affect the adjudications of pending petitions filed for or on behalf of individuals in the United States regardless of their national origin.
The two primary EOs were predictably overshadowed following the travel ban, but it is vital to discuss their content as to highlight the deep concerns they raise in the community. The EOs focus on protecting the interior and southern border of the United States by foremost ordering the immediate construction of the wall. They also invoke the termination of the policy known as “catch and release” at the border, while simultaneously ordering mass detentions and mass expansion of detention capacity. Expansion of expedited removals were explicitly ordered, as well as conducting removal proceedings outside the U.S. without instruction on how other countries would enforce or even honestly recognize this overreaching demand. Humanitarian relief was severely limited following the issuance and prosecution of unlawful entries were prioritized.
Currently, all undocumented immigrants have been universally prioritized for removal. DHS has been ordered to hire an additional 10,000 ICE officers, punish sanctuary jurisdictions, increase immigration prosecutions, and reinstate the Secure Community Program which was terminated in 2014 due to constitutional concerns. Also, the EOs pressure countries into receiving their nationals back even at the expense of complicating agreements and jeopardizing international relations.
I believe it is the best safety tactic for any individuals who fall under any of these EOs to seek legal advice to better protect themselves and their loved ones. Additionally, individuals should limit their travel to and from the United States as we are unsure how long the suspension of the Trump travel ban will remain in effect. Please be aware the primary EOs discussed above are still fully enforceable and have not been halted by the federal ruling.
Commonly, rumors spread faster than truth and many times the truth gets lost in translation. I am a firm believer that one of the greatest investments one can make is in expanding their knowledge. Yet, one should not solely seek advice from any source willing to produce. Instead, one should research to ensure the attorney providing the information is knowledgeable in this complex area of law as to truly consider all factors before furnishing legal advice. Remember, each life is unique and should be analyzed on an independent basis to determine the best interest of each person.
In sum, I recognize this entry includes an overwhelming amount of information, and even so, I also acknowledge I still only exposed the tip of the iceberg. I wish all those affected, both in the community and those advocating to serve them, the courage and endurance to press on for we have a long road ahead. We must persevere as the challenge has revealed it will be difficult, but we will not allow it to deceive us into doubting our strengths. We will remain grounded in our conviction to defend our laws, our people, and our freedoms for they are ours to eternally protect.