Published January 31, 2017
Lightning struck, in a bad way, for U.S. based or U.S. bound nationals of seven countries this past weekend. Citizens and nationals from Iran, Iraq, Libya, Somalia, Sudan, Syria, and Yemen and who are: a) current or prospective U.S. lawful permanent residents or refugees or b) current or prospective temporary U.S. visa holders, find themselves in the most toxic of immigration scenarios they could have ever imagined, at least for the next 90 days. For prospective Syrian refugees, the door to the U.S. has been shut indefinitely.
With the stroke of a pen, President Trump immediately interrupted current and prospective travel to the U.S. for individuals from these countries, although they have been previously approved for U.S. residence or visas or even on their way here. At international airports across the U.S. chaos and mass confusion ensued. Dozens of previously approved and vetted refugees and immigrants arriving at U.S. airports were detained for 12 hours and up, and threatened with deportation, including an Iraqi translator who was employed and trusted by the U.S. military for years, dozens of refugees who underwent up to two years of vetting, as well as dozens of long time U.S. lawful permanent residents who have no record of wrongdoing whatsoever. Some long-time residents were even coerced into signing documents to abandon their permanent residence as they were held incommunicado and desperate for a way, any way, out.
Eventually, almost all of the detained individuals were released, – but not because that was the government’s ultimate intention. No, with the first abrupt, unannounced detention, came the first of a dozen Habeas Corpus lawsuits filed in federal courts across the U.S. to free the individuals detained. The court filings led to the release of the detainee complainants and the emergency entry of judicial stays of removal pending the court’s further review of the merits of the filings. Without the involvement of the courts, these permanent residents and U.S. visa holders would in all likelihood never have been released or get a chance to step foot in the U.S. again.
Legally, there is nothing impermissible about our government restricting or even eliminating the flow of refugees. Legally, there is nothing impermissible about our government restricting the flow of individuals on temporary visas from certain countries, at least where there is good reason to take action. Undoubtedly, this is why our electorate voted in President Trump – since this type of action was consistent with his campaign messages, especially when it came to restricting the entry of Muslims. But legally, on the issue of a religion based entry ban, a constitutional violation is obvious. On the issue of morality or the practical necessity of this action, big questions remain.
But, what about long time permanent residents who never have had as much as a speeding ticket, who are all of a sudden being denied the right to return to their homes and lives in the U.S. and threatened with permanent banishment? Yes, this presents significant constitutional violations and legal consequences, and on this issue there has been an uproar in both Democrat and Republican circles, and of course in the courts.
For individuals in all of the above classes, as stated, the courts this week sought to maintain the status quo by allowing their entry. For the ones now overseas trying to return to their homes here, or reenter for the first time, they will have to wait at least 90 days to return. For permanent residents and visa holders from these nations who are legally residing in the U.S. at this time, international travel is without question inadvisable.
Regardless of one’s personal policy perspective on the substance of the President’s immigration related Executive Orders, the manner in which the orders were carried out is troubling. According to multiple reports and government leaks, President Trump’s inner circle methodically short circuited the traditional methods of Executive Order implementation, where top officials of executing agencies, such as Department of Homeland Security in this instance, are typically consulted and forewarned. For instance, in this weekend’s orders, operatives in President Trump’s circle deliberately reversed the original language of the order, where U.S. lawful permanent residents indeed would not have been caught up in this sudden detention net.
Abrupt multi-policy implementation such as this weekend’s immigration Executive Orders, or the recent unconventional, unprecedented re-alignment of President Trump’s National Security Council, give the public an idea of how President Trump and his administration will operate. Hopefully, our citizenry keeps their fingers in the air and eyes wide open.
PUBLISHED January 31, 2017– “IMMIGRATION LAW FORUM” Copyright © 2017, By Law Offices of Richard Hanus, Chicago, Illinois