Articles Posted in Syrian Crisis

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On October 24, 2017, the President issued Executive Order 13815 entitled, “Resuming the United States Refugee Admissions Program (USRAP) with Enhanced Vetting Capabilities.” As the title suggests, the U.S. Refugee Admissions Program also known as (USRAP) is no longer suspended and the policies set forth in section 6(a) of Executive Order 13780 also known as “Protecting the Nation from Foreign Terrorist Entry into the US,” are no longer in effect as they pertain to refugees. As outlined in Executive Order 13780, beginning October 24, 2017, “Presidential action to suspend the entry of refugees under the USRAP [is no longer needed] to protect the security and interests of the United States and its people.”

Section 6(a) of Executive Order 13780 imposed a temporary freeze on the admission of refugees to the United States, and provided for a temporary 120-day window in which the Department of Homeland Security would review the application and adjudication process for the Refugee Admissions Program to prevent foreign terrorist entry to the United States. This 120-day window expired on October 24, 2017. Section 6(a) contained a provision which stipulated that refugee travel and application decisions would resume after the 120-day window had terminated, “for stateless persons and for nationals of countries which the Secretary of State, Secretary of Homeland Security, and Director of National Intelligence jointly determine that the additional procedures identified through the USRAP review process are adequate to ensure the security and welfare of the United States.”

At this time, the Secretary of State, Secretary of Homeland Security, and Director of National Intelligence have advised the Trump administration that sufficient improvements have been made to prevent foreign terrorist entry through the Refugee Admissions Program, such as the implementation of enhanced vetting procedures. These improvements have been deemed sufficient to ensure the “security and welfare of the United States,” for the time being. In accordance with this order, the Department of Homeland Security will only apply special measures restricting the travel of refugees to those categories of refugees that “pose potential threats to the security and welfare of the United States.”

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On October 17, 2017, federal judge Derrick Watson of the U.S. District Court for the District of Hawaii, issued a temporary restraining order preventing the government from enforcing Sections 2(a), (b), (c), (e), (g), and (h) of the Presidential Proclamation 9645, “Enhancing Vetting Capabilities and Processes for Detecting Attempted Entry into the United States by Terrorists or other Public-Safety Threats” signed by the President on September 24, 2017. These sections of the Presidential Proclamation were to be enforced at 12:01 a.m. eastern daylight time on October 18, 2017.

As a result, foreign nationals from Chad, Iran, Libya, Syria, Yemen, and Somalia will NOT be affected by the restrictions outlined in the Presidential Proclamation and may continue to travel freely to the United States. Visa applications for these countries will continue to be adjudicated in accordance with existing immigration law, and visa processing standards, irrespective of the restrictions outlined in the Presidential Proclamation.

However, the court order does not prevent the government from implementing restrictions on foreign nationals from North Korea and Venezuela. In addition, the order does not prevent the government from scrutinizing the adjudication of visas for Iraqi nationals and their admittance to the United States. Sections (d) and (f) of the Proclamation, outline the provisions that remain in force. Restrictions on the entry of foreign nationals from North Korea, Venezuela, and Iraq began on Wednesday, October 18, 2017 and will continue until further notice. The restrictions on Venezuela as you will see below are the most lenient of the restrictions. 

Restrictions on North Korean nationals: Entry of foreign nationals from North Korea has been suspended for all immigrants and non-immigrants (including diversity visa holders).

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Just one day before Presidential Proclamation No. 9645, “Enhancing Vetting Capabilities and Processes for Detecting Attempted Entry Into the United States by Terrorists or Other Public-Safety Threats,” was set to go into effect, a federal judge in Hawaii issued a ruling blocking portions of the Presidential Proclamation from being enforced on a majority, but not ALL, of the countries, listed in the Proclamation.

The Presidential Proclamation, commonly referred to in the media as ‘travel ban 3.0’ set out to suspend the entry of foreign nationals from eight “countries of identified concern,” and the admission of foreign nationals from those countries was to remain limited until further notice.

The countries to be affected by travel ban 3.0 included: Chad, Iran, Libya, North Korea, Syria, Venezuela, Yemen, and Somalia. A federal judge from the state of Hawaii by the name of Derrick Watson has granted a temporary restraining order preventing the government from suspending the admission of foreign nationals from the following countries: Chad, Iran, Libya, Syria, Yemen, and Somalia, but DOES NOT prevent the government from suspending the admission of foreign nationals from North Korea and Venezuela, and from imposing stricter screening standards on Iraqi nationals. The restrictions on foreign nationals from North Korea, Venezuela, and Iraq will continue to be enforced according to the Proclamation, beginning today, Thursday, October 19, 2017. Restrictions on North Koreans and Venezuelans will likely remain indefinitely, given that the U.S. government has no formal diplomatic avenues for communication with those countries.

Judge Derrick Watson wrote in his opinion that the latest revision of the ban, “suffers from precisely the same maladies as its predecessor,” and “lacks the sufficient finds that the entry of more than 150 million nationals from [the] specified countries would be ‘detrimental to the interests of the United States,” and “plainly discriminates based on nationality.”

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On September 24, 2017, the President issued a Presidential Proclamation expanding the list of countries subject to the travel ban outlined in Executive Order 13780 entitled “Protecting the Nation from Foreign Terrorist Entry into the United States.” As you may recall, as part of that executive order, in March 2017, the President had asked the Secretary of Homeland Security and Attorney General to conduct a worldwide review to assess the dangers that foreign nationals from designated countries of concern pose to the national security of the United States. Under Executive Order 13780, DHS was directed to implement additional security mechanisms and vetting procedures for countries identified as potential threats to national security.

The Secretary of Homeland Security, Secretary of State, and Attorney General identified 16 additional countries which “remain deficient . . . with respect to their identity-management and information-sharing capabilities, protocols, and practices,” and as a result pose a potential threat to our country’s national security.  By proclamation, the entry of foreign nationals from eight of these countries will remain suspended and limited for the time being.

The President has determined that the immigrant and non-immigrant entry of foreign nationals from the following countries would be detrimental to the national interests of the United States, at least until increased security mechanisms can be implemented, and identity and information-sharing capabilities can be improved.

Per Section 2 of the Proclamation

Suspension of Entry for Nationals of Countries of Identified Concern

“The following countries continue to have “inadequate” identity-management protocols, information-sharing practices, and risk factors . . . such that entry restrictions and limitations are recommended:”

The entry of foreign nationals from the designated countries listed below will be suspended and limited to a few exceptions and case-by-case waivers beginning October 18, 2017.

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On Wednesday, July 19, 2017, the United States Supreme Court responded to the Trump administration’s motion seeking clarification regarding the Supreme Court’s June 26th preliminary ruling, which held that the President could enforce the travel ban against foreign nationals from Iran, Syria, Sudan, Libya, Yemen, and Somalia, who lack a credible “bona fide” relationship to a person residing in the United States, or entity such as an employer, religious, or academic institution.

The government sought clarification from the United States Supreme Court after the state of Hawaii challenged the government’s interpretation of a “close familial relationship,” and convinced a federal court judge that the Supreme Court intended close family members to include extended family members such as “grandparents, grandchildren, brothers-in-law, sisters-in-law, aunts, uncles, nieces, nephews, and cousins of persons in the United States.” Federal judge Watson was also convinced that refugees with a formal assurance from a resettlement agency were exempt from the travel ban.

In a brief order, the Supreme Court denied the government’s motion seeking clarification of the court’s June 26, 2017 preliminary order, and reversed judge Watson’s decision regarding the admission of refugees with a formal assurance from a resettlement agency. The Supreme Court has ruled that refugees with a formal assurance from a resettlement agency will not be granted admission to the United States pending the resolution of the government’s appeal to the Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals.

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As previously reported, the U.S. Supreme Court recently announced that the court will be hearing arguments in defense of and in opposition to the President’s controversial executive order “Protecting the Nation from Foreign Terrorist Entry into the United States,” also known as the “travel ban” in October of this year.

In the meantime, the Supreme Court has allowed some parts of the President’s executive order to take effect until it makes a final ruling later this year. This means that certain foreign nationals will be prevented from gaining admission to the United States. Today, the Department of State announced that per the Supreme Court’s instructions, the President’s 90-day temporary suspension will be implemented worldwide at 8:00 PM (EST) beginning today, June 29, 2017.

Who will be affected?

Foreign nationals from the six countries of concern mentioned in the President’s executive order, including Syria, Sudan, Somalia, Iran, Libya, and Yemen, who do not have a bona fide relationship with a person, entity (such as a religious or academic institution), or employer in the United States, will not be granted admission to the United States for a period of 90 days, beginning, June 29, 2017 8:00 PM EST, unless the foreign national can demonstrate that they have a credible qualifying bona fide relationship with a person, employer, or entity in the United States. Such individuals may qualify for a case-by-case waiver.

In addition, refugees will not be admitted to the United States for a period of 90 days, beginning June 29, 2017 8:00 PM EST, unless they can demonstrate a legitimate claim of “concrete hardship,” to be weighed against the country’s concern for its national security.

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On Monday morning, the United States Supreme Court announced that it will hear arguments for and against the President’s controversial executive order, “Protecting the Nation from Foreign Terrorist Entry into the United States,” otherwise known as the “travel ban,”when it reconvenes in October of this year. The President’s executive order seeks to block the admission of foreign nationals from 6 predominantly Muslim countries (Syria, Sudan, Somalia, Iran, Libya, and Yemen) for a period of 90 days, and suspend the admission of refugees for a period of 120 days.

This announcement sets in motion the end of a long legal battle challenging the scope of the President’s executive power on immigration. This Fall, the Court will be tasked with determining whether the ban violates the establishment clause of the U.S. Constitution, as well as key provisions of the Immigration and Nationality Act, signed into law by Congress.

In the meantime, the Supreme Court has announced, in their per curiam opinion, that a limited version of the President’s executive order will remain in effect, until the Court makes its final ruling. In their opinion, the Court ruled that foreigners who have no ties or relationships in the United States may be prohibited from entering the country. This would include individuals applying for visas who have never been to the United States, or have no family, business, or other ties.

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As previously reported, the Visa Waiver Program Improvement and Terrorist Prevention Act of 2015, was a bill that was signed into law at the end of 2015, which imposed new restrictions on the use of the Visa Waiver Program (VWP) for certain travelers. In this post, we update our readers regarding new information provided by CBP in their newly updated FAQ page.

What is the Visa Waiver Program?

The Visa Waiver Program allows citizens of designated countries to apply for admission to the United States as visitors (traveling for holiday, business, or in transit) without having to obtain a non-immigrant B1/B2 visa at a U.S. Embassy or Consulate abroad, using a system known as ESTA or Electronic System for Travel Authorization.

To be eligible to travel to the United States under the visa waiver program, you must be a citizen of one of thirty-eight countries eligible to participate in the program, you must have a valid machine-readable passport issued by the participating country that is valid for at least 6 months before your planned departure, you must apply for and have an approved ESTA before your proposed travel, and you must intend to remain in the United States for 90 days or less.

You may not be eligible to travel under the VWP if you have been denied a U.S. visa in the past, or have an immigration violation. In this case, you must apply for a visitor visa at a U.S. Consulate abroad, even if your country participates in the VWP.

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The United States Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit has dealt yet another blow to President Donald Trump’s embattled executive order entitled “Protecting the Nation From Foreign Terrorist Entry Into the United States,” an order which temporarily prevented the admission of foreign nationals from six predominantly Muslim countries (Syria, Sudan, Somalia, Iran, Libya, and Yemen) and the admission of all refugees. As previously reported, the case reached the Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals, where a three-judge panel heard arguments against the President’s travel ban, brought by the state of Hawaii as well as other individual Plaintiffs.

Together, Judge Hawkins, Gould, and Paez, grilled the U.S. Solicitor General, Jeffrey Wall, representing the U.S. government, and attorney Neal Katyal, representing the state of Hawaii, concerning the constitutionality of the President’s executive order. Like the Fourth Circuit Court of Appeals, the Ninth Circuit Court once against decided against the President’s executive order, albeit for different reasons. The Ninth Circuit Court’s ruling against the travel ban is the latest in a string of court rulings rejecting the President’s executive order on statutory grounds.

In their 86-page opinion, the Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals rejected the executive order on statutory grounds, stating that the President had exceeded his executive power and made an inadequate judgment call with the issuance of his executive order. “The Immigration and Nationality Act (INA) gives the President broad powers to control the entry of aliens, and to take actions to protect the American public. But immigration, even for the President, is not a one-person show,” stated the Court, referring to the nation’s system of checks and balances. The Court added “we conclude that the President, in issuing the Executive Order, exceeded the scope of the authority delegated to him by Congress.” The Court further stated that the President’s executive order is at odds with various provisions of the Immigration and Nationality Act established by Congress, including a provision that prohibits nationality-based discrimination and a provision that requires the President to follow specific protocol when setting the annual cap on admission for refugees. The lower’s courts injunction on the travel ban will remain in place until a decision is issued by the U.S. Supreme Court.

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In response to a memorandum issued to United States consulates and embassies around the world by President Trump and his administration on March 6, consular officials at U.S. embassies around the world are now taking tougher measures to enhance security screening of U.S. visa applicants to prevent potential security threats from entering the United States. Enhancing vetting procedures are intended to target individuals from certain “countries of concern” including the six countries of concern listed in the President’s travel ban: Syria, Sudan, Somalia, Yemen, Libya, and Iran, as well as others.

Applicants for U.S. visas from “countries of concern” can expect to undergo additional vetting procedures immediately. The U.S. Department of State has been using a supplemental questionnaire called the DS-5535 since May 25, 2017 which asks both immigrant and non-immigrant visa applicants a series of detailed questions to help consular officials determine whether a visa applicant must go through enhanced vetting to determine whether the individual poses a national security threat, or other potential threat to the United States. The questionnaire has been used as a temporary emergency measure in response to the President’s March memo, which called for enhanced screening of visa applicants, and what he has called “extreme vetting” of foreign nationals admitted to the United States.

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