Since his inauguration on January 20, 2017, President Trump has signed a handful of Executive Orders causing several drastic changes in immigration law. These orders have created a great deal of concern and confusion in both the interpretation and enforcements of the orders for immigration attorneys and the federal agencies. Find below a list of President Trump’s Executive Orders and how they may impact you.
The U.S. Refugee Admissions Program was the most significantly impacted as this order suspends the program for 120 days and decreases the number of allowed by more than half. Additionally, all Syrian refugees have been indefinitely banned from resettling in the U.S. Other individuals, excluding green card holders, seeking immigration benefits from seven designated countries – Iraq, Iran, Libya, Somalia, Sudan, Syria, and Yemen – are prohibited from entry. The order allows for an exception for the admission of individual refugees on a case-by-case basis, particularly where the person is a religious minority in his or her country.
The order also discontinues the Visa Waiver Interview Program for individuals who are citizens of a visa-waiver country but have visited the above mentioned countries. Foreign nationals who have traveled to the seven countries named must now attend interviews at the Consulate before entering the U.S. For example, if you are an Irish citizen, you are eligible for the visa waiver program, however if you have visited Libya, you will no longer be allowed to register for the visa-waiver and must schedule an appointment at the Consulate in Dublin to obtain permission to enter the country.
On February 3, 2017, the U.S. District Court for the Western Division of Washington issued a temporary restraining order prohibiting the government from enforcing the following sections of the order:
Entry into the U.S. cannot be prohibited where a person has a current, validly-issued visa;
Admission of refugees cannot be prohibited;
Processing of refugee claims and admission of refugees cannot be prioritized based on religion; and
Syrian refugees cannot be prohibited from being admitted to the U.S.
The government filed for a stay of the restraining order with the Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals, however, the Court denied the government’s request. It is excepted the government will appeal the ruling to the U?S. Supreme Court.
This order poses very significant implications for non-citizens who have ever been arrested. The order expands the definition of a “criminal alien” and sets forth new removal priorities for noncitizens. These priorities include individuals with:
Unresolved criminal charges;
Committed acts that constitute an offense;
Engaged in fraud;
Abused public benefits;
Are present in the U.S. with a deportation order; and
Pose a risk to public safety or national security.
Further, President Trump’s order facilitates cooperation between the federal, state and local law enforcement agencies. The order allows state authorities to execute functions normally performed by federal immigration officers. In addition, cities that refuse to cooperate with the federal government may be denied federal grants if the city refuses to enforce immigration laws.
Through this order, President Trump aims to “secure” the southern border through the construction of a wall and an increase in detention facilities. This order terminates President Obama’s policy of “catch and release,” where individuals caught at the border with unlawful immigration status were released from detention while waiting for a hearing with an immigration judge. Under the Obama administration, the government lacked resources to detain individuals for a lengthy period of time, as the process from apprehension to an order of deportation may take years. Lastly, this order expands agreements between federal and state/local law enforcement agencies to assist in federal immigration enforcement functions. As of February 10, 2017, Congress has not yet funded these efforts.
Congress and the courts are making attempts to challenge the enforcement of these executive orders through Congress and in courts around the country. We will continue to monitor these orders and provide any updates. Should you have any questions about the new executive orders and their impact on your immigration status, please contact Attorney Nicole Fink.