By Attorneys Brittany M. Milliasseau and Nancy E. Miller
Exactly one week after his inauguration, President Trump signed an executive order which banned entry of noncitizens from seven Muslim-majority countries, halted U.S. refugee admissions, and suspended the nonimmigrant visa interview waiver program. Signed on January 27, 2017, the executive order seeks to protect the nation from entry of foreign terrorists, but consequently led to a series of nationwide protests, Constitutional challenges, and agency confusion at ports of entry and with the U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS).
One week later, a District Court judge issued a nationwide temporary restraining order which halted enforcement of certain provisions of the executive order, namely parts related to the travel ban on refugees and noncitizens from Muslim-majority countries. Subsequently, the Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals unanimously affirmed the District Court judge’s ruling and allowed the temporary restraining order to remain in place. While no immediate next steps have been confirmed, President Trump has expressed plans to challenge the ruling, potentially at the Supreme Court level, and has also not ruled out the possibility of issuing an entirely new executive order.
Meanwhile, U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) began enforcement raids in several states across the nation aimed at apprehending undocumented immigrants, particularly those with criminal records. ICE has reported that 680 people were taken into custody nationwide. 161 people were taken into custody in Southern California. As legal challenges ensue, expanded enforcement begins, and uncertainty continues to loom, it is now more important than ever to consult with an immigration attorney if you have questions about how to obtain legal immigration status.
Frequently Asked Questions
I am from one of the seven restricted countries. Is it safe for me to travel outside of the U.S.?
If you are a citizen or national of Iran, Iraq, Libya, Somalia, Sudan, Syria, or Yemen and are not a U.S. citizen, you will not be permitted to enter the U.S. if the temporary restraining order is lifted.
If the travel ban resumes, lawful permanent residents, as well as dual nationals from one of the restricted countries possessing a valid U.S. visa in a passport of an unrestricted country, should be permitted to enter the U.S., but should still carefully consider the risks of travel.
I am not from a restricted country. Is it safe for me to travel outside of the U.S.?
Due to the fluidity and changes taking place without much advance warning, you may want to limit non-essential travel outside of the U.S., especially if you are from an area that may be of particular concern to U.S. national security. If you do travel abroad, please be cautious when returning to the U.S. as there have been unconfirmed reports of individuals being asked to sign documents to relinquish their green cards.
I have a pending case with USCIS. Will the Executive Order impact my case?
USCIS has confirmed that the executive order does not affect adjudication of applications and petitions filed for or on behalf of individuals in the U.S., regardless of their country of nationality. It is important however to consider that there could be delays in processing times due to the change in directives. It is recommended that you seek a licensed attorney for assistance with preparation of any application submitted to USCIS not only to ensure that a proper legal analysis is performed, but also to ensure that the application is prepared accurately in order to minimize additional requests from immigration that could result in further delays in processing.
I think I may be eligible for a certain immigration benefit such as a green card or citizenship. What should I do?
Due to the numerous anticipated changes to the immigration program as a whole, if you believe that you may be eligible for a certain immigration benefit, you should consult with an immigration attorney as quickly as possible. Changes may happen without much advance notice and a benefit you may currently be eligible for may no longer be available.
What should I do if I am stopped by an Immigration Officer?
If you are stopped by an officer and questioned, you may politely let the officer know that you do not wish you speak with him or answer any questions until you have spoken with a lawyer. You may also let the officer know that you do not consent to a search of your person or property.
How can I find out if my family member has been arrested in an immigration raid?
If the individual is over 18 years old, you may search the ICE Online Detainee Locator System. If your family member has been detained, you should consult with an immigration attorney immediately.