Immigration Executive Order causes turmoil

Photo courtesy of Isabella Avila

On Jan. 27, President Donald Trump issued an Executive Order (EO) entitled “Protecting the nation from foreign terrorist entry into the United States.” The order met a lot of backlash and was dubbed the “Muslim Ban” because it targeted travelers from seven majority-Muslim countries: Iran, Iraq, Libya, Somalia, Sudan, Syria, and Yemen.

This EO follows suit with Trump’s campaign promise to protect the U.S. borders. It is designed to help authorities in identifying people with terrorist ties and refusing those people from entering the U.S.

What does the Executive Order do?

By definition, an EO is a rule or order issued by the President to an Executive Branch of the government which has the force of law. EOs do not need congressional approval, but they can be overturned if they are deemed unconstitutional.

First, the EO calls for the suspension of issuance of new visas and immigration benefits to people traveling from one of the seven countries banned. For 120 days, these nationals may not enter the U.S. After the initial 120 days, the EO does not specify what will happen to nationals from these blocked countries, but Trump has hinted that he wants more strictures.

The EO also suspends the Syrian refugee program indefinitely.

“The entry of nationals of Syria as refugees is detrimental to the interests of the United States and thus suspend any such entry until such time as I have determined that sufficient changes have been made to the United States Refugee Admissions Program to ensure that admission of Syrian refugees is consistent with the national interest,” the EO stated.

In addition to the nationals affected by this ban, the EO prioritized refugee claims on the basis of religious persecution, so long as the applicant belongs to a religion that is a minority in their country of origin. According to The Guardian, this part of the order can allow Christian immigrants from countries where Christianity is a minority, that is majority Muslim countries, to have priority over other immigrants from their country.

Lastly, the EO reduces the number of refugees that the U.S. receives from any country to 50,000. This is significantly cutting the number of refugees from 84,995 that were accepted in the 2016 fiscal year, as reported by the U.S. Department of State.

What services are available?

At the University of San Diego School of Law Legal Clinic, free legal assistance is offered in various areas, including immigration, by offering information, consultation, and representation in Deferred Actions.

Adjunct law professor Sandra Wagner is the supervising attorney for the USD Legal Clinic. Wagner is spearheading the efforts to help students who may be affected by the immigration ban. Once the EO was issued, Wagner was contacted by students who were concerned about the ban.

“No international students should feel they will be ignored if they contact clinic,” Wagner said. “We do affirmative application work and assist any student within the USD community with immigration issues. All they have to do is contact the legal clinic and a law student will be assigned to give them advice and assistance.”

Wagner shared that, while she is only on campus one day a week, she assists with cases. In emergency situations, she will take point to help the student.

In regard to the EO, Wagner said that international students, and the rest of the country, will have to wait to see what the decision is in the ninth circuit of appeals on Tuesday.

“Whatever happens [in the courts], the side that doesn’t get what it wants will file an appeal,” Wagner said. “In the next weeks, we’ll see what happens. Right now, people are coming into the country. Any USD student that has questions or concerns about the ban is more than welcome to call in and talk to us.”

Wagner stressed that international students worried about their immigration status get correct information.

“I’m most concerned about rumors flying around about the Executive Order,” Wagner said. “Any time there’s an immigration issue that reaches the public, I want the students to get the correct information and not rely on rumors or bad advice that will lead them down the wrong path and jeopardize their status.”

Federal judge puts temporary ban on the EO

On Feb. 3, a federal judge in Washington state filed action challenging the EO. The State of Washington vs. Donald J. Trump, et al. stated its grievances with the EO in a case document.

“The State seeks a finding that certain sections of the Executive Order are contrary to the Constitution and laws of the United States, and enjoining Defendants from implementing or enforcing those sections,” the document said. “The State further seeks entry of a nationwide temporary restraining order.”

After the action was filed, the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) suspended all enforcement of the EO.

“At the earliest possible time, the Department of Justice intends to file an emergency stay of this order and defend the president’s Executive Order, which is lawful and appropriate,” stated a DHS press release. “The order is intended to protect the homeland and the American people, and the president has no higher duty and responsibility than to do so.”

According to an NPR report on Sunday, the State Department also followed suit and allowed travelers with still valid visas from the banned states to resume travel.

The Justice Department filed an appeal to overrule the Washington state action, but, on Sunday morning, it was overruled by the U.S. Court of Appeals for the 9th Circuit, maintaining the suspension of the EO.

On Tuesday night, three federal judges will meet to discuss the immediate fate for the EO. Regardless of the decision legal experts are predicting that it will be appealed to the Supreme Court.