*Practice limited to federal immigration law. Licensed in NY, MA, but not in CA.

Trump’s Executive Orders on Immigration

On Wednesday, January 25, 2017, President Trump issued two executive orders on immigration: Border Security and Immigration Enforcement Improvements and Enhancing Public Safety in the Interior of the United States. Late Friday evening, a third order joined these two, “Protecting the Nation from Foreign Terrorist Entry into the United States,” leading to protests and legal action across the country.

Protests in Los Angeles, Boston, New York and other areas are continuing and court decisions are being announced. We will be updating this blog as developments unfold. If you need advice on whether you can travel abroad or if Trump’s orders may affect you, call our Immigration Attorney Josh Goldstein in Los Angeles or Boston today.

There’s no longer any doubt about whether the President was serious about much of his campaign rhetoric – he was, and he is now making good on a number of his promises. The tone in the executive orders is the same as it was on the campaign trail. Immigrants are being painted as “dangerous criminals” who present a national security and public safety threat to the United States. Trump’s solution? Ramp up enforcement and deportation, make Americans afraid of immigrants by highlighting any crimes they commit, and double-down on “alternative facts” to make Americans think their country is being overwhelmed by people who are stealing their jobs and who want to harm them. The fact that this is the narrative being presented by the President of the United States is outrageous and heartbreaking, to say the least.

“Enhancing Public Safety in the Interior of the United States”

President Trump’s first executive order definitively focuses on two central topics: how the United States ought to respond to immigrants labeled as “criminals” and how the federal government ought to treat Sanctuary Cities.

How Will This Order Affect Immigrants?

  • The order puts special emphasis on deporting any “criminal” immigrant, but states that he will also prioritize deporting: anyone who has been convicted of a criminal offense, charged with an as-yet-unresolved criminal offense, committed a criminal act even if they have not been charged, engaged in fraud, abused any public benefit program, not left the U.S. after a final order of removal, or who immigration officers find otherwise dangerous. These definitions cast such a wide net that this essentially means there are no longer any priorities when it comes to who will be deported.
  • There is serious concern about this executive order leading to an increase in racial profiling and a targeting of a much wider group of immigrants for deportation. The language in the executive orders suggests that immigration officers will be able to pull over speeding drivers or “suspicious-looking” individuals and ask for their immigration status at will, something immigration advocates have long opposed.
  • This is only further compounded by the fact that the executive order authorizes state police and local law enforcement to carry out immigration enforcement. Deputizing local police, untrained in immigration law and policy, to carry out immigration enforcement will likely lead to abuses of immigrant rights and general distrust towards police officers.
  • At the same time, this executive order also requires the creation of a list of crimes committed by immigrants to similarly shame and demonize their actions. Publishing immigrant crimes will likely stoke the flames of negative immigration rhetoric and is probably meant to counteract any pro-immigrant press released by the mainstream news.

How Will This Order Affect Sanctuary Cities like Los Angeles and Boston?

  • This order lists punishments that Sanctuary Cities will face if they refuse to deport immigrants or abide by these executive orders. Specifically, this order states that “that jurisdictions that fail to comply with applicable Federal law [will] not receive Federal funds” and that the federal government will publish a list of these jurisdictions.

“Border Security and Immigration Enforcement Improvements”

In President Trump’s second executive order, the administration outlines how it will build a wall and further “secure” the United States’ southern border with Mexico. Out of fear that immigrants will traffick drugs across the border or commit acts of terror, the Trump administration orders the construction of a “physical wall” and also commands major changes to detainment facilities and border-enforcement.

Will Implementing this Order Actually Be Possible?

  • In many ways, these threats feel empty because President Trump has yet to announce how the United States government will pay for these border security changes. Though President Trump has stated that Mexico will pay for the wall and has hinted at a tax on goods crossing the border, Mexican President Enrique Peña Nieto has since canceled his meetings with Trump and has clearly stated that Mexico will do no such thing. If funding for the border wall–not to mention the detention centers–must then pass through Congress, there’s no telling whether it will receive enough funds to begin construction.

How Will This Order Change Immigration?

  • This executive order still gives us cause for concern because of the ways it will fundamentally change immigration detention and enforcement policy. The order seeks to drastically increase the number of border enforcement officers, nearly tripling the number of Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) officers. At the same time, the order gives immigration officers the freedom to detain any immigrant who exhibits suspicious behavior. If merely suspicious immigrants are held in the same ways as criminals, it’s difficult to say who will be prioritized in trials and deportations.
  • Additionally, the President orders that individuals attempting to cross the border be detained until trial and in certain cases, returned to their country of origin. Our fear is that this will include many of the immigrants entering the United States by crossing the southern border are fleeing dangerous living conditions and oppression in Guatemala, Honduras, and El Salvador. To detain them for the entire time they await their hearings or to prevent their entry would hinder asylum-seekers worthy of protection from finding safe haven in the United States, and possibly violate international law.
  • Lastly, the President’s order to increase the number of border enforcement officers comes at a time when border crossings are at a 40-year low and border patrol guard numbers are already at an all-time high. Given this current climate, increasing border patrol would be an ineffective and unnecessary use of government resources.

“Protecting the Nation from Foreign Terrorist Entry into the United States”

The third executive order, conveniently missing from the White House website as of the writing of this piece, bans the entry of refugees and of immigrants from seven Middle Eastern and North African countries. Explaining that “the United States must ensure that those admitted to this country do not bear hostile attitudes toward it and its founding principles,” the order goes on to suspend visas for immigrants and travelers from Syria, Iraq, Iran, Yemen, Somalia, Sudan, and Libya, and ban the entry of all refugees for 120 days, and ban the entry of Syrian refugees indefinitely.

What Does This Order Do?

  • This order not only limits the entry of refugees and immigrants from Muslim-majority countries, but it also suspends the Visa Interview Waiver Program, a program which has sped up the consular immigration process by allowing some immigrants to forgo in-person interviews when renewing temporary visas.
  • Additionally, the order commands the publication of the number of foreign nationals charged with, convicted of, or removed because of terrorist-related offenses; the number of foreign nationals radicalized within the U.S. or who support terrorist-organizations; any gender-based violence committed by foreign nationals; as well as any other information deemed relevant to public safety and security.

Doesn’t This Order Discriminate Against Muslims?

  • This order was met with public outcry from lawyers, civil rights groups, religious organizations, and private citizens over the weekend. First and foremost, the executive order appears to be a direct contradiction of the U.S. Constitution’s dedication to religious freedom: refugees and immigrants are being denied access to the US largely because of their religious identity as Muslims. To compound this, President Trump announced that refugees facing religious-persecution would still be allowed access–citing Syrian Christians. Though the Trump administration has denied that this is in any way a Muslim Ban, it certainly seems like the geographical ban is only a pretext for a religious ban, especially because it provides Syrian Christians with a special exception.
  • Lawyers and civil rights groups gathered at airports across the country over the weekend to aid immigrants and refugees currently traveling. Many have noted that the President’s executive order violates the 1965 Immigration and Nationality Act, which prevents visa discrimination based on “race, sex, nationality, place of birth or place of residence.”

How Are Immigration Lawyers Responding To This Order?

  • Following hours of protesting and dedicated legal work from American Immigration Lawyers Association (AILA) volunteers and American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) staff, many states issued temporary stays for immigrants facing deportation.
  • U.S. District Court Judge Ann Donnelly issued the first stay on deportations in New York City late Friday evening. Soon after, U.S. District Judge Leonie Brinkema issued a temporary restraining order allowing green card holders to enter Dulles International Airport in Texas for seven days. On Sunday, two federal judges in Boston joined the movement and issued another seven-day stay.

Were There Protests Related To This Order?

  • As lawyers and judges worked around-the-clock to protect immigrant rights, nearly 20,000 protesters gathered in Copley Square in solidarity with Muslims and immigrants at an event organized by the Council on Arab-Islamic Relations. Though much is still unclear regarding these new immigration orders, it’s clear that the people of Boston stand on the side of immigrants.

Our Los Angeles Immigration Lawyers Are Here For You

We understand that there are more executive orders to come on immigration in the near future. We’ll be monitoring the situation for you and will keep you as up to date as we can with what they are and our analysis of them.

One important thing to remember going forward is that many many people disagree with these changes and these policies. Wherever possible, they’ll be challenged, as they have been already.

Call our immigration lawyer in Los Angeless today. We’re here for you to help you understand what’s happening and to help you figure out what your options are. We vehemently disagree with President Trump’s approach to immigration, and we will fight for you and alongside you each and every day.