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Jason Dzubow on Political Asylum

The "New" Travel Ban and How It Affects Asylees and Refugees

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Late last month, the U.S. Supreme Court issued a decision allowing the Trump Administration to begin enforcing its travel ban against all refugees and against individuals from six "banned" countries--Iran, Libya, Somalia, Sudan, Syria, and Yemen.

Travel Ban Redux, or Once More Into the Breach (of Decorum), Dear Friends

Since the Court's decision is (to put it kindly) a little vague, it was initially unclear how exactly the Administration would enforce its executive order ("EO"). Now, the Department of Homeland Security and the State Department have issued some guidance, and so we have a better idea about the effects of the EO. Of course, given that the Supreme Court's decision is subject to interpretation, we can expect more litigation in the weeks and months ahead, but for today, I want to discuss how the EO will likely be enforced with regards to asylum seekers, asylees, and refugees.

Asylum Seekers
: Asylum seekers are people who are physically present in the United States and who have a pending asylum case. The short answer for asylum seekers from banned countries is that the EO has essentially no effect on your case (the longer answer is here). Cases will move forward and be adjudicated as before (i.e., slowly). I should note that since the beginning of the Trump Administration, we have had several cases approved, including cases from Muslim countries and banned countries.

Asylees and Refugees Who Have Already Been Resettled in the United States
: Asylees are people who have been granted asylum by the U.S. government. Refugees in this section refers to people approved for refugee status overseas who have already been resettled in the United States. According to a DHS FAQ sheet (question # 11):

Returning refugees and asylees, i.e., individuals who have already been granted asylum or refugee status in the United States, are explicitly excluded from this Executive Order. As such, they may continue to travel abroad and return to the United States consistent with existing requirements.

This means that if you already received asylum, or if you were already resettled in the U.S. as a refugee, you can travel outside the U.S. and return, and the EO does not affect you. However, if you are from one of the "banned" countries, it is a good idea to keep an eye on the news to make sure there are no future changes that might affect your ability to return (one helpful website is the American Immigration Council).

Also, according to DHS (question # 22), people who received a green card based on asylee or refugee status are not affected by the EO.

Asylees and refugees can file for their family members (spouses and minor, unmarried children) to come to the United States, and the EO does not block those family members from coming here. According to DHS (question # 34), "Family members planning to join refugees or asylees are only approved for travel if a bona fide relationship to a spouse or parent in the United States exists. Therefore, if the relationship were confirmed, the travel suspension would not apply." (see also question # 36). So asylees who have filed I-730 petitions should not be prevented from reuniting with their family members in the U.S.

Refugees Who Are Waiting to Come to the U.S. for the First Time
: It is important to note that all refugees, even people from countries that are not banned, are affected by the EO. According to DHS (question # 31), "Under the Executive Order as limited by the Supreme Court’s decision, any refugee, regardless of nationality, is prevented from admission to the United States unless he or she (1) demonstrates a bona fide relationship with a person or entity in the United States or (2) obtains a national interest waiver from the Department of State or CBP [Customs and Border Protection]."

The EO blocks admission of all refugees (other than those who meet an exception to the rule) for 120 days. According to the U.S. State Department, there are exceptions for "those refugees who are in transit and booked for travel," though these people will likely all be in the U.S. by now.

According to DHS (question # 29), refugees can still come to the U.S. if they have a "close" family relationship with someone already here. DHS interprets this to mean:

[A] parent (including parent-in-law), spouse, child, adult son or daughter, fiancé(e), son-in-law, daughter-in-law, and sibling, whether whole or half. This includes step relationships. However, “close family” does not include grandparents, grandchildren, aunts, uncles, nieces, nephews, cousins, brothers-in-law and sisters-in-law and any other “extended” family members.

Certainly we can expect this interpretation to be the subject of litigation. Why is a half-sibling a close relative, but a grandparent is not?
Also, a refugee with a bona fide relationship to an "entity" in the United States is still eligible to travel here, but what this means is also unclear. According to a senior official at the State Department:

As regards relationships with entities in the United States, these need to be formal, documented, and formed in the ordinary course of events rather than to evade the executive order itself. Importantly, I want to add that the fact that a resettlement agency in the United States has provided a formal assurance for refugees seeking admission is not sufficient, in and of itself, to establish a bona fide relationship under the ruling. We’re going to provide additional information to the field on this.

I expect we will see litigation on this point as well. Litigation means delay, and so the likely effect of the EO on refugees will be to greatly reduce the number of people coming to the United States.

Blocking refugees from resettling in the U.S. has been a goal of the Trump Administration since the beginning, and it is one reason why Mr. Trump was elected in the first place. So, like it or not (and obviously, I don't), this is what democracy looks like. But of course the result is that innocent people will die, and it is all the more reason for those of us who support our refugee program to try to convince the general public on this point, to work with our representatives in Congress, and to litigate in court.

The EO's impact on nationals of the six banned countries and on all refugees is temporary, at least for now. The Supreme Court will take up the merits of the EO this fall, and the President may issue new EOs (and Congress may pass laws that impact immigration). In essence, all this is a moving target, and so asylees, asylum seekers, and refugees need to keep abreast of any changes. We also have to keep working hard, in order to protect victims of persecution and to defend our nation's values, which these days seem in grave jeopardy.

Originally posted on the Asylumist:

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  1. ImmigrationLawBlogs's Avatar
    Arguably, with all the restrictions and limitations on Trump's Muslim ban orders that have been imposed by the federal courts, including the Supreme Court, one might say that the ban has now shrunk to the size where one could drown it in a bathtub.

    But, beyond the almost theater of the absurd technicalities of whether a given applicant for a visa or admission to the US is a grandparent, in-law or step-relative to a US citizen, and therefore either banned from or allowed to enter the United States during the next three months, one can also argue that Trump has already accomplished the main purpose of his ban, which is to demonize and stir up hatred against all Muslims as potential terrorists and fifth columnists including US citizens and permanent residents, as part of his drive to seize absolute power in the United States, just as another democratically elected leader (also with a minority of the popular vote) did in 1933 by using the Jews as his scapegoats.

    Of course the details of Trump's ban are important to people from the six Muslim countries who are seeking entry to the US, and to refugees from all over the world, many of whom are also Muslims.

    So, no doubt, were the details of the Nuremberg laws important to Jews of Germany in 1936.

    But all Americans need to go beyond the details of the president's ban orders and the minutiae of the court decisions regarding them, in order to focus on their larger purpose.

    In this regard, even though no one could reasonably accuse Trump of supporting genocide, extermination, or anti-Semitism, there are lessons from the 1930's period in Germany that no American who cares about preserving our democracy can ignore.

    Roger Algase
    Attorney at Law
    Updated 07-06-2017 at 10:44 AM by ImmigrationLawBlogs
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