January 30, 2017

President Trump's Immigration Executive Orders: An Overview

In his first week in office, President Trump moved quickly to follow through on campaign promises relating to immigration. He issued three executive orders that addressed border security, immigration enforcement, and the U.S. refugee program and terrorism, respectively. The third executive order, which blocks entry of persons from countries connected to terrorism, caused immediate travel disruptions and became the source of controversy worldwide. We’ve outlined the main action items laid out in each executive order and provided insight into what additional actions the president may pursue in the future.

The executive orders mandate the following actions:

Border Security and Immigration Enforcement Improvements

  • Construction of a wall along the U.S.’s southern border (shared with Mexico)
  • Construction of additional detention facilities along the southern border
  • Hiring of more Border Patrol officers, immigration enforcement officers, asylum officers and immigration judges
  • Entering into agreements with state and local officials authorizing them to enforce immigration laws

Enhancing Public Safety in the Interior of the United States

  • Expansion of the categories of persons prioritized for removal from the U.S. to include potentially all undocumented persons (the Obama Administration’s prioritization had focused on persons who had committed serious crimes)
  • Blocking of federal funding to communities designated as “sanctuary cities”
  • Imposing sanctions on countries refusing to take back their citizens removed from the U.S., including possible bans on issuance of visas to citizens of those countries
  • Establishing an office to assist victims of criminal action by undocumented persons

Protecting the Nation from Foreign Terrorist Entry to the United States

  • Blocking immigrant and nonimmigrant entry for at least 90 days for “aliens from” Iran, Iraq, Libya, Somalia, Sudan, Syria and Yemen (and possibly more countries in the future), which may include persons who were born in one of these countries but are now citizens of another country
  • Suspension of the U.S. refugee program for all countries for at least 120 days
  • Suspension of refugee processing for Syrians indefinitely
  • Reduction of the number of U.S. refugee admissions for the current fiscal year from 110,000 to 50,000
  • Elimination of the nonimmigrant visa interview waiver that allowed some persons renewing nonimmigrant visas—as well as children and elderly applicants—to skip the normal visa interview at the U.S. consulate (note this is not an elimination of the Visa Waiver Program, which allows persons from certain countries to visit the U.S. without visas for 90 days)
  • Completing the previously mandated biometric entry and exit system to track all visa entrants to ensure that they leave the U.S.
  • Establishing screening standards and procedures for all visa programs to detect fraud and criminal or terrorist intent, and to determine the applicant’s “likelihood of becoming a positively contributing member of society” and “ability to make contributions to the national interest”

Within two days after issuance of the third executive order, court orders blocked enforcement of the travel ban against persons who were already in transit or planning to travel to the U.S. in the next few days. The court orders do not affect the travel ban going forward, and it remains in effect. By its terms, the travel ban would apply to persons with U.S. permanent residency (green card holders), but the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) issued a statement that the travel ban would generally not block entry by U.S. permanent residents.

Most of the program suspensions and blocks on entry are designed to allow time to gather information and improve processes. The suspensions and blocks could be extended if it is determined that more time is needed.

President Trump has not yet issued an executive order on the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) program. President Obama created DACA through executive order to provide temporary deportation relief and work authorization to about 750,000 young people brought to the U.S. without authorization as children. During his campaign, President Trump promised to end the DACA program on his first day in office, but so far he has not done so.

President Trump may issue additional executive orders that more directly target legal and employment-based immigration. Significant administration or congressional action will be covered in future alerts.

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