The world of immigration law consistently undergoes major legal developments, but perhaps the most drastic changes in recent history have occurred in the past several of months, leaving many questioning the future of their immigration status. Since the start of 2017, President Donald Trump has issued two separate executive orders regarding the entry of foreign nationals into the United States. With the law rapidly changing, it is more important now than ever for immigrants and refugees living in or seeking entry into the United States to know their rights.
Most recently, President Trump issued an executive order regarding foreign nationals entering the United States on March 6, 2017. This order revoked the prior controversial executive order—or the “travel ban”—issued on January 27, 2017 and created a revised version. This blog will provide an overview of both orders and explain the differences.
The January order placed an absolute ban on all entry into the United States for 90 days from nationals of the following seven countries: Iraq, Syria, Iran, Libya, Somalia, Sudan and Yemen. Additionally, it halted any refugees from admission to the United States for 120 days and indefinitely banned refugees from Syria. This ban was especially controversial for two reasons. First, it specifically stated that refugee claims made by applicants who have experienced religious persecution would be prioritized, “provided that the religion of the individual is a minority religion in the individual’s country of nationality.” Notably, all seven countries listed in the ban are predominantly Muslim, and to clarify, Trump later confirmed that Christians in particular would be prioritized over other religious minorities, including minority Muslim sects. Secondly, this travel ban did not make any exceptions for foreign nationals of the 7 listed countries who had legal permanent status, green cards, or visas (minus the limited exceptions for official government visas or diplomatic visas). This meant that legal immigrants who lived and worked in the U.S. and had temporarily left the country for various reasons were not allowed to come back to their homes, jobs, or families.
Thankfully, a federal judge granted a national temporary restraining order that barred the travel ban’s implementation, and the Ninth Circuit upheld this ruling by stating that it was unconstitutional to discriminate against eligibility of entry based on religion. In response to this injunction, Trump issued a revised executive order this week that omitted some of the more controversial aspects of this travel ban.
The revised order no longer applies to Iraq because Trump found that “the Iraqi government has expressly undertaken steps to enhance travel documentation, information sharing, and the return of Iraqi nationals subject to final orders of removal.” However, this new order will still impose a 90 day travel ban on foreign nationals from the other 6 countries listed above. Unlike the January ban, it provides an exception for permanent residents and current visa holders. Furthermore, it removed any language regarding religious minorities and omitted the indefinite ban on Syrian refugees, replacing it instead with a 120-day freeze. It also limited the number of refugees admitted to the United States each year to 50,000 which is approximately half of the refugees that were admitted in 2016. This will go into effect on March 16, 2017.
Fortunately, at least four states are currently challenging this revised ban in federal court, but until a decision is reached the revised executive order will remain in effect. If you or a family member has been or foreseeably will be affected by this executive order, please contact an attorney at Stilwell & Slatton Immigration, LLC by scheduling a consultation, and we will make every effort to advocate on your behalf.