On January 27, the White House issued an Executive Order immediately halting visa issuance and forbidding entry into the U.S. of all nationals of seven predominantly Muslim countries: Iraq, Libya, Somalia, Sudan, Syria, Yemen, and Iran. The order also effectively ends the refugee admission program for Syrians and temporarily halts refugee admissions from other countries, while also reducing the number of refugee admissions to 50,000 in 2017.
Signed late Friday afternoon, the order has caused chaos at airports around the world as immigration inspectors have scrambled to implement the order while travelers with valid visas and green cards attempted to board flights or arrived in the U.S. Although the chaos of the first 72 hours is subsiding, many aspects of how the ban is being applied remain in flux.
Here is what we know about the travel ban and how it is being implemented:
Since Friday several Federal courts issued injunctions prohibiting CBP from detaining or deporting people who had been prevented from entering the U.S., and many additional lawsuits challenging the order are being prepared. However, there have been reports of CBP officials illegally ignoring the existing injunctions. Even in places where the injunction is being followed, this protection only applies to travelers who have made it to the U.S.
The order is being applied to prevent people with otherwise valid visas from boarding flights, and the Department of State has instructed consular posts worldwide not to schedule visa appointments for people from the affected countries. We also have heard numerous reports from colleagues around the country that some CBP offices and ports of entry are not following the official guidance, including detaining citizens of countries other than the named seven.
Our advice is that visa holders who were born in these countries who are currently in the U.S. should not leave the U.S. for any reason unless doing so would result in them overstaying their lawful period of admission. The frenzied process by which the White House seems to be implementing these policies makes it impossible to predict when or whether such visa holders will be permitted to return.
The order also suspends refugee admissions from Syria indefinitely and from all other countries for at least 120 days while the oft-discussed “extreme vetting” measures are developed and implemented.
Although the order states that the travel ban and refugee suspension is only temporary, it may be unlikely that the countries affected could or would ever comply with the conditions the order sets for having the ban lifted. It is likely that the legality of the order – and the fate of those affected – will ultimately be decided by the Supreme Court.
If you have any questions about this, please contact us.
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