It has only been one week since Donald Trump became our new President. He has decided to take on immigration first by making heavy use of Executive Orders. His targets include, but are not limited to: the unlawfully present, lawful immigrants from certain Muslim countries, criminal aliens, those in DACA status, and Sanctuary Cities.
There is a tremendous amount of uncertainty at the moment about what has occurred and what is about to occur. Two Executive Orders were sign on Wednesday and are still being carefully analyzed by attorneys. Four draft Executive Orders were leaked to the public, but have not yet been signed. We don’t know whether they will be signed or not, though it is widely believed among immigration attorneys that one of them will be signed today. We won’t know for certain until it happens.
Below is a description of how the changes and expected changes impact various groups:
1. Unlawfully present immigrants. The Immigration and Nationality Act (INA) allows the government to remove (deport) “arriving aliens” without a trial. The procedure is called “Expedited Removal” and usually takes less than 48 hours, sometimes as little as one or two hours. Per the INA, any alien who entered the country without inspection in the past two years is an “arriving alien”. The policy of the government has long been to apply this section only to foreign nationals apprehended within 100 miles of the border. Trump has done away with the “within 100 miles of the border” policy. Furthermore, the INA says the immigration officer decides whether he thinks the person has been present for less than two years or not. This decision is made quickly while the foreign national is in custody. There is no opportunity to go back to one’s apartment to pick up evidence. There is no opportunity to make a phone call so someone else can bring evidence. The decision will be made with whatever documentation the person has on him/her at the time of apprehension. This Executive Order is very significant because what had been preventing mass deportations was the expense of a trial. The Order opens the door for rapid, inexpensive mass deportations. Attorneys are recommending to the unlawfully present that they carry with them at all times documentation that they’ve been here at least two years. This should at least afford them the opportunity to appear before an Immigration Judge. This Executive Order has been signed.
2. Certain Lawful Muslim Immigrants. It is expected that today the President will sign an Executive Order temporarily banning the issuance of visas and the entry into the country of those possessing valid visas for citizens of Syria, Iraq, Iran, Libya, Yemen, Sudan and Somalia. The ban includes refugees. The draft Order states that the ban is for 30 days while the impact on public safety is assessed. Anyone from these countries currently present in the US should cancel any upcoming travel plans. Anyone from these countries who are outside the US and have a valid visa or travel document should return immediately. As of the time this article was posted, this Executive Order has not been signed.
3. Sanctuary Cities. A so-called “Sanctuary City” is one where the city government has decided not to use any public funds in the enforcement of immigration laws. Several cities across the country have declared themselves “Sanctuary Cities”. The President has ordered that certain federal subsidies for these cities will end; they will receive less money from the federal government. This Executive Order has been signed.
4. Criminal Aliens. Whereas previously foreign nationals with convictions for serious or violent offenses were declared an enforcement priority, the Present has ordered that a foreign national present in the US with any criminal conviction – including petty offenses – and those with charges pending, even if there is no conviction, are an enforcement priority. The Executive Order further states that 10,000 new ICE officers will be hired to enforce the Order. State and Local law enforcement is ordered to cooperate with ICE in the identification of such individuals. This will make foreign nationals highly vulnerable to the accusations of a disgruntled ex-boyfriend/girlfriend, landlord, neighbor, etc. as just the criminal charges will trigger the involvement of ICE. This Executive Order has been signed.
5. DACA. Some high-ranking government officials have stated that DACA will remain intact. But in one of the leaked draft Executive Orders, it states that while those currently in DACA status will not have their status or EAD revoked, there will be no new approvals, no renewals and no Advanced Parole issued in conjunction with DACA. This has not been signed and the consensus among immigration attorneys is that there is a tremendous amount of uncertainty regarding whether that one will be signed or not. That one might not happen. We don’t know. This Executive Order has not been signed.
In the midst of the rapid issuance of Executive Orders, many high-ranking officials from the Obama administration have resigned, creating an opportunity for more severe policy changes within the Department of State and Border Patrol.
No changes have been made or proposed for the I-601A Provisional Waiver Program at this time.
I will do my best to keep everyone posted on what’s happening. There is a lot going on, accompanied by tremendous uncertainty.