Articles Posted in TRO

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Today, March 30, 2017, a federal judge from the state of Hawaii extended a court order blocking the President’s new travel ban from being enforced. In a 24-page decision, Judge Derrick Watson of Hawaii issued a preliminary injunction bringing the President’s executive order to a screeching halt indefinitely. Judge Watson first gained national attention two weeks ago, following his issuance of a temporary restraining order or TRO, which prevented the federal government from enforcing all provisions of the travel ban for a 14-day period. Watson’s TRO was meant to provide temporary relief pending further litigation. The state of Hawaii asked the judge to convert the TRO into a longer-lasting form of relief known as a preliminary injunction, at least until a higher court could issue a permanent ruling. The President’s embattled executive order sought to prevent the admission of foreign nationals from 6 Muslim majority countries including Syria, Somalia, Sudan, Iran, Libya and Yemen, for a 90-day period as well as the admission of Syrian refugees for a 120-day period.

In his decision Judge Watson wrote that he based his grant of the preliminary injunction on the strong likelihood that the state of Hawaii would succeed in proving that the travel ban violated the establishment clause of the U.S. Constitution which protects freedom of religion. In addition, the state of Hawaii successfully argued that absent the provisional relief, citizens of the state would be irreparably harmed. Attorneys for the state added that the state’s national economy would suffer in the absence of relief, and that its state universities would also be harmed by the President’s executive order in both the state’s ability to retain and recruit foreign born students and faculty.

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The newly appointed U.S. Secretary of State Rex Tillerson is quickly mobilizing government resources to increase scrutiny and implement tougher screening procedures for applicants who are applying for a U.S. visa or other immigration benefit at U.S. Consular posts and Embassies abroad. Reuters has reported that Secretary Tillerson has sent a series of internal cables (four in total) to consulates and embassies abroad instructing them of new measures to increase vetting of visa applicants (both immigrant and non-immigrant). These cables are as follows: (1) Cable 23338 entitled “Guidance to Visa-Issuing Posts” issued on March 10, 2017; (2) Cable 24324 entitled “Implementing Immediate Heightened Screening and Vetting of Visa Applications” issued March 15, 2017; (3) Cable 24800 entitled “Halt Implementation” of President Trump’s new travel ban due to a temporary restraining order by a federal court, issued on March 16, 2017; and finally (4) Cable 25814 entitled “Implementing Immediate Heightened Screening and Vetting of Visa Applications” issued March 17, 2017.

In these cables, Tillerson has directed U.S. consulates and embassies to specifically identify population risks that warrant “increased scrutiny” and to implement tougher screening procedures for this particular group of people. Applicants who fall into one of the identifiable population groups will be subjected to a higher-level security screening. The cable does not identify whether embassies will be coordinating to provide a uniform standard for identifying populations who pose a security risk. This is a serious cause for concern, since U.S. embassies will likely vary in how they assess which groups pose a security risk. In addition, as part of these measures, the Secretary has ordered a mandatory social media check for all applicants who have ever visited or been present in any territory that is controlled by the Islamic State. Previously, social media screening was not a part of the regular screening process for U.S. visa applicants, however this screening process has always been a discretionary measure.

In addition, the cables provided instructions for the implementation of President Trump’s newly revised executive order on immigration which sought to temporarily bar the admission of foreign nationals from Syria, Libya, Sudan, Somalia, Iran, and Yemen, as well as Syrian refugees, including mandatory enhanced visa screening procedures. Several of these cables were quickly retracted by the Secretary of State after a federal judge from the state of Hawaii issued a Temporary Restraining Order blocking Trump’s embattled executive order from proceeding as planned. The Trump administration had envisioned strict new guidelines for vetting U.S. visa applicants, and this vision was reflected in Tillerson’s cables.

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In this series, our office brings you up to speed on all things immigration.

Reminders for H-1B applicants for Fiscal Year 2018

Beginning April 3, 2017 USCIS will begin to accept cap-subject H-1B petitions for fiscal year 2018. USCIS has recently announced that premium processing has been temporarily suspended beginning April 3, for a 6-month period, that means that petitioners CANNOT file Form I-907 request for premium processing while premium processing has been suspended. As a reminder, for the general cap (U.S. bachelor’s degree holders or the foreign equivalent) only 65,000 H-1B visas are available per fiscal year, while 20,000 H-1B visas have been allocated for the advanced degree exemption (U.S. Master’s degree holders or higher level of education). Our office has estimated that this H-1B season, advanced degree holders will have a 65 to 70% chance of being selected in the lottery, while individuals qualifying for the general U.S. bachelor’s cap will have a 35 to 40% chance of selection.

For more information about the H-1B visa please click here.

I-130 Consular Processing

If you have applied for an immigrant visa with the National Visa Center, a process that is also known as consular processing, and you are preparing your civil documents for shipment to the National Visa Center or for your immigrant visa interview, please be aware that the Department of State has recently made changes to the Country Reciprocity tables, requiring new or additional documents for certain foreign nationals depending on their country of nationality. All original civil documents must be presented at the immigrant visa interview by the intended beneficiary.

To view the updates please click here.

To review the complete Visa Reciprocity Table, please click here.

What is happening with Trump’s Muslim Travel Ban and what is a Temporary Restraining Order?

Trump’s revised executive order banning the admission of foreign nationals from 6 Muslim-majority countries (Syria, Somalia, Sudan, Libya, Iran, and Yemen) and the admission of refugees is currently on hold. A federal judge from the state of Hawaii has issued what is known as a TRO or Temporary Restraining Order.

What is a TRO?

A TRO is a provisional form of relief granted by the federal courts that prevents a party from doing a certain thing so that the moving party does not suffer harm. The relief provided by a TRO is immediate, because the order is only granted under emergency circumstances. A TRO goes into effect for 14 days and can be extended for another 14 days (maximum 28 days). A TRO is not permanent.

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On Wednesday March 15, 2017, a federal judge from the state of Hawaii issued a Temporary Restraining Order in opposition of President Donald Trump’s new executive order “Protecting the Nation from Foreign Terrorist Entry into the United States” which was set to go into effect today Thursday, March 16, 2017. This will be the second time the President’s executive order has been blocked by a federal court. Among its major provisions the new executive order which was set to go into effect today, called for a 90-day travel ban on non-immigrants of six Muslim countries including Syria, Libya, Iran, Somalia, Sudan, and Yemen, and a 120-day travel ban on the admission of refugees into the United States. The executive order had been re-drafted by the Trump administration following the Ninth Circuit Court’s ruling invalidating all provisions of the executive order nationwide. To salvage the provisions of the executive order and make good on his campaign promise to eradicate terrorism, the President and his administration attempted to improve the order by removing controversial provisions within the order, affecting legal permanent residents, as well as non-immigrants with valid U.S. visas, otherwise authorized to gain admission to the United States. The order also removed Iraq as one of the countries affected by the order and removed a provision terminating the admission of Syrian refugees into the United States.

In what seems like déjà vu, the new executive order has once again been opposed first by a federal judge in Hawaii, and in a separate action by a federal judge from the state of Maryland who has blocked the 90-day travel ban from being implemented on citizens of the six Muslim majority countries nationwide. In their decisions, both judges mentioned President Trump’s statements during his presidential campaign which called into question the constitutionality of the executive order and its violation of the Establishment Clause. Specifically, President Trump has previously said that terrorism is linked to the Muslim religion, and his administration has identified the six Muslim countries outlined in the order as countries whose citizens have committed terrorist crimes in the United States. The Court has been concerned with the discriminatory effect of the executive order in targeting Muslims. The federal judge from the state of Hawaii noted that the state has “met their burden of establishing a strong likelihood of success on the merits of their Establishment clause claim, that irreparable injury is likely if the requested relief is not issued, and that the balance of the equities and public interest counsel in favor of granting the requested relief.” For those reasons, the Court found that a Temporary Restraining Order blocking all provisions of the order was appropriate.

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With only three days left until enforcement of President Donald Trump’s newly revised executive order “Protecting the Nation from Foreign Terrorist Entry into the United States,” Democratic legislators and immigration advocacy groups are rushing to file litigation in opposition of the new order. Although the new executive order has removed some of its controversial provisions, the essential components of the original order have remained the same. For example, the order continues to call for a 90-day travel ban on citizens of Syria, Iran, Libya, Somalia, Sudan, and Yemen who are outside of the United States on March 16, 2017 and who do not possess a valid U.S. visa or permanent resident card as of the date of the order. The order also calls for a travel ban on all refugees and suspension on all decisions for applications for refugee status for 120-days.

The new order has now removed Iraq from the list of countries affected by the travel ban and has removed the provision banning the admission of Syrian refugees indefinitely. The language of the newly revised version also makes clear that citizens of these 6 affected countries, who are legal permanent residents or who have valid U.S. visas as of the date of the order, will not be prevented from seeking admission to the United States. Citizens of these countries who do not already have a U.S. visa or green card on the date of the order will not be admitted until the temporary ban has been lifted. In addition, the new order exempts foreign nationals who are admitted into the United States on or after March 16, 2017, as well as dual nationals traveling on a passport issued by an unaffected country, and individuals traveling on diplomatic visas. The order also carves out a provision that allows qualifying individuals to apply for a waiver if they can demonstrate to the satisfaction of the US official that their country would cause them undue hardship or that that they are not a threat to national security, and that their admittance is in the national interest. It seems however that these waivers will be rarely issued and difficult to obtain, unless the U.S. official determines that the foreign national’s admittance is in the national interest.

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On Monday, March 6, 2017 President Donald Trump rolled out a newly revised version of the executive order “Protecting the Nation From Foreign Terrorist Entry Into the United States” following the Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals refusal to reinstate the controversial order that was originally released on January 27, 2017.  The January 27th order had called for a blank travel ban on citizens of seven Muslim majority countries, temporarily barring them from gaining admission into the United States for a period of 90 days, irrespective of their legal status in the United States. These seven Muslim majority countries were deemed “countries of particular concern” by the Trump administration based upon the Department of State’s reports designating these countries as countries presenting heightened security risks to the United States. In addition, in the original order, Donald Trump had called for a temporary 120-day suspension of the U.S. Refugee program preventing refugees from entering the United States, and finally the order suspended the Syrian refugee program indefinitely. These controversial measures threw the country into chaos as thousands of demonstrators flooded airports across the country to show their solidarity for the citizens of the seven Muslim majority countries affected by the order. The order was especially controversial because it affected all non-immigrants including immigrants with valid United States visas, as well as permanent residents. Although these measures were overruled by the Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals in February, the Trump administration has shown that it will not be discouraged by their actions.

In his new executive order, Donald Trump has scaled back the language used in the first executive order removing provisions that indefinitely banned Syrian refugees from seeking admission to the United States, and language which prioritized the admission of religious minorities persecuted in the Middle East. US officials will no longer prioritize religious minorities when considering applications for refugee admission. The new order calls for a travel ban blocking citizens from six Muslim majority countries including Syria, Iran, Libya, Somalia, Sudan, and Yemen from applying for and obtaining visas for a period of 90 days. The order leaves in place a temporary travel ban blocking the admission of refugees into the United States for a period of 120 days to allow more stringent vetting procedures to be put in place. The executive order removes Iraq from the list of Muslim majority countries, whose citizens will no longer be prevented from seeking admission to the United States.

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Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals San Francisco, CA

A three-judge panel from the Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals has unanimously ruled that the President’s Executive Order “Protecting the Nation from Foreign Terrorist Entry into the United States” banning the entry of immigrants and non-immigrants from seven Muslim-majority countries will not be reinstated. The Court refused to reinstate the Order after hearing oral arguments from the solicitor general of Washington state arguing for the states of Washington and Minnesota, and counsel from Washington D.C. The panel was tasked with reviewing a temporary restraining order (“TRO”) that was handed down by a federal judge from Seattle, an order which brought President Trump’s Executive Order “Protecting the Nation from Foreign Terrorist Entry into the United States” to a screeching halt. Since then several lawsuits have been filed against the President’s executive order and are making their way through the courts.

The Court considered four central questions before reaching their decision:

  • Whether the stay applicant “Government” has made a strong showing that he is likely to succeed on the merits;
  • Whether the applicant “Government” will be irreparably injured absent a stay;
  • Whether issuance of the stay will substantially injure the other parties interested in the proceeding and;
  • Where the public interest lies.

The Court concluded that the government failed to satisfy the first questions, and that arguments made by the government’s attorney in support of the last two questions did not justify the issuance of a stay to lift the temporary restraining order and reinstate the Executive Order. The Court reasoned that the government failed to show that it would be likely to succeed on appeal, noting the seriousness of the allegations raised by the States regarding religious discrimination and significant constitutional questions. In a powerful statement the Court noted that “the government has pointed to no evidence that any alien from any of the countries named in the Order has perpetrated a terrorist attack in the United States.” The Court further stated that the States “offered ample evidence that if the Executive Order were reinstated even temporarily, it would substantially injure the States and multiple other interested parties.”

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Following a dramatic turn of events, on Friday, February 3, 2017, a federal judge from the Western District of Washington, issued a Temporary Restraining Order (“TRO”) halting enforcement of the President’s Executive Order entitled “Protecting the Nation from Foreign Terrorist Entry into the United States” nationwide. The temporary restraining order was issued in response to an emergency motion filed by the state of Washington and Minnesota. The states collectively filed the motion seeking declaratory and injunctive relief against the controversial executive order which bans the entry of immigrant and non-immigrant foreign nationals from seven Muslim-majority countries (Syria, Iraq, Iran, Libya, Somalia, Sudan, and Yemen) for a 90-day period, suspends the U.S. Refugee Admissions Program for a 120-day period, and terminates the Syrian refugee program indefinitely.

In his ruling, Judge Robart stated that after hearing arguments, the States adequately demonstrated that they have suffered immediate and irreparable harm because of the signing and implementation of the order, and that granting a TRO would be in the public interest. In addition he stated “the Executive Order adversely affects the States’ residents in areas of employment, education, business, family relations, and freedom to travel. These harms extend to the States. . . are significant and ongoing.” A three-judge panel from the Ninth Court Court of Appeals is expected to issue a final ruling on the Executive Order tomorrow.

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