Update on Executive Order Blocking People from Seven Muslim Nations from Entering the United States
On Tuesday evening the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit heard oral argument as they considered whether to lift a national block on the Trump administration’s executive order banning people from seven countries from entering the United States and halting our country’s refugee program. On Friday a lower court in Washington state halted the ban, allowing refugees and individuals from these countries to be admitted to the United States. The government filed an emergency appeal over the weekend, which was rejected. The Ninth Circuit requested more briefing and arguments, so the parties filed briefs on Monday and presented their cases Tuesday afternoon at a telephonic hearing. The Ninth Circuit has indicated that they will probably make a decision this week. For now, refugees and people from these countries are allowed to enter the United States. Once the Ninth Circuit makes a decision, the case will likely be appealed to the Supreme Court.
The controversy started two weeks ago when President Trump signed an executive order that prevented refugees from entering the United States for 120 days and barred Syrian refugees indefinitely. The order also prohibited people from seven Muslim majority countries – Iran, Iraq, Libya, Somalia, Sudan, Syria and Yemen – from entering the United States for 90 days. This created widespread confusion at airports here and abroad as officials struggled to determine if the ban applied to dual nationals and legal permanent residents of the United States (green card holders) who hold passports from these countries. At least 60,000 foreigners had their valid visas cancelled due to the ban.
After several days of conflicting interpretations, the Department of Homeland Security indicated that the ban did not apply to people with U.S. green cards. However, the ban did apply to people with student, work and visitor’s visas, leaving many people who live, study and work in the United States stuck abroad in limbo. Several challenges to the executive order were filed in courts across the country. Friday’s ruling in Washington was the first to issue a nationwide injunction of the ban. Other cases are still pending.
Another area of confusion was how the executive order applied to people from the seven counties who are already in the United States and applying for immigration status such as asylum or green cards. Last week there were reports that in some areas of the country, USCIS offices were halting adjudication of these applications. On Friday, separate from the litigation, the USCIS director issued a memo clarifying that the ban does not apply to these immigration petitions. The Dallas Field Office indicated that it has been processing these requests as usual while waiting for more guidance. In addition, the USCIS memo indicates that the executive order does not affect people outside the United States whose applications do not directly confer travel authorization, such as someone who is eligible for a green card but applying from outside the United States. Thus, it appears that currently, if the court reinstates the ban, it will prevent people from the seven countries from entering the country or receiving a visa to travel to the United States, but it will not stop them from receiving other immigration benefits for which they are eligible.
Human Rights Initiative of North Texas opposes all policies that adversely impact its clients and other asylum seekers seeking protections from the United States.