On Friday, January 27, 2017, shortly before close of business, an executive order was signed concerning the much discussed temporary ban of refugees and foreign nationals from certain countries. As of this time, the signed copy has NOT been released by the White House. Shapiro Law Group, PC has obtained access to a leaked, unsigned version that purports to be the final version, so all comments below are with reference to that version. If the final version is later released to be substantially different, additional updates will be posted.
A summary of this executive order has been provided below. For clarity’s sake, this VERY lengthy executive order into points for ease of understanding.
1. ALL countries will be required to provide a list of information that would be needed from a citizen of their country to determine that someone applying for any US immigration benefit is not a security threat. This imposes a duty on all countries to report back to the United States on what kinds of information would be needed to “vet” someone of their country. This is potentially a significant and unenforceable burden on each country.
a. Those countries that do not respond within 30 days (or respond with what they feel is not enough information) will be put in a report and notified that they have 60 days to respond.
b. If the countries in this report do not respond within 60 days after being put in the report, ALL travel from people “from” that country will be blocked. It is yet uncertain whether that includes dual citizens, people born in that country but not a citizen, or just citizens of that country.
c. Even if a country is blocked, case by case exceptions may be made in extreme circumstances.
2. Effective immediately, ALL travel of people from the following countries will be blocked for the next 90 days: Iran, Iraq, Libya, Somalia, Sudan, Syria and Yemen. It is yet unclear whether this will also be applied to grants of immigration benefits for people already inside the United States or just the entry into the United States.
a. As of this moment, this “block” DOES appear to include people with visas already granted AND Legal Permanent Residents (LPRs or people with green cards) of the United States, as it does not specifically exclude them. There have already been reports of LPRs being detained at airports upon returning to the United States.
3. The State Department, Homeland Security, National Intelligence office, and the FBI are to develop a method to evaluate who is potentially going to be a danger to the United States prior to granting immigration benefits. In addition, they are to also impose a requirement that the applicant now be a positively contributing member of society, will contribute to the national interest, or will commit crimes after entering the US.
a. In person interviews are likely to increase tremendously to comply with this portion of the order.
b. The second part of the above may create a requirement that people be positively contributing members of society before they are granted a benefit. This could potentially block the immigrant visas of elderly parents, young children, or “unskilled” workers. It is very unclear how far this could go and additional guidance will be necessary to try to determine exactly what this means.
4. ALL new refugees will be banned for the next 120 days (approximately 4 months).
a. After the 120 days have passed, new refugees will only be allowed in the future for countries that comply with #1, above.
b. After the 120 days have passed, priority will be given to people who have experienced religious based persecution and their religion is the minority in the country.
c. NO Syrian refugees will be allowed entry into the United States, effective immediately.
i. As of this moment, this “block” DOES appear to include people with visas already granted AND Legal Permanent Residents (LPRs or people with green cards) of the United States, as it does not specifically exclude them.
d. The number of allowed refugees will be reduced to less than half of the previous number for this year. Of note is that more than half of these have already been used.
e. Case by case exceptions may be allowed to bypass this 120-day block in exceptional circumstances, such as if they are already in transit.
f. As of this moment, it is unclear whether this block or these numbers include people who are entering the United States as relatives of people who were already granted asylum in the United States. It is very unclear how far this could go and additional guidance will be necessary to try to determine exactly what this means.
5. States will be allowed to determine if refugees can resettle in their state.
6. The Attorney General has been asked to consider removal of all TRIG (terrorist related inadmissibility grounds) exceptions. TRIG exceptions include forgiveness of minor or understandable situations, such as having already paid a ransom to save someone’s life to a terrorist or violent group.
a. It is currently unclear whether this could include the revocation of grants of asylum or green cards to people already granted this status. It is very unclear how far this could go and additional guidance will be necessary to try to determine exactly what this means.
7. The completion of the entry-exit fingerprinting system should be expedited.
8. The Visa Interview Waiver program, which allows some visas to be renewed without an interview, will be immediately suspended.
a. More consular officers should be hired and the program should be expanded to avoid making the wait for visa interviews much longer.
9. There is to be published, every six months, the following statistics:
a. The number of non-U.S. citizens charged or convicted with terrorism-related offenses in the US, or removed for that reason;
b. The number of non-U.S. citizens who have been radicalized since entering the United States;
c. The number of acts of gender based violence against women by non-U.S. citizens; and
d. Other numbers of interest, such as the number of non-U.S. citizens charged with major offenses.
Until further notice, Shapiro Law Group, PC suggests that citizens, nationals, or dual citizens of Iran, Iraq, Libya, Somalia, Sudan, Syria or Yemen AVOID ALL TRAVEL OUTSIDE OF THE UNITED STATES. This DOES INCLUDE Legal Permanent Residents (those people with green cards) until further notice or guidance is issued.
Please rest assured that this office is constantly monitoring the status of all executive orders being issued with respect to Immigration law and will continue to provide updates once firm knowledge of actual changes are made.