Breaking News: Significant Updates on the “Muslim Ban” Executive Order 02.03.2017
USCIS Confirms Adjudications Unaffected for Nationals of Seven Banned Countries
It has been one week since President Trump issued an Executive Order (EO) suspending entry of all refugees to the United States for 120 days, barring Syrian refugees indefinitely, and blocking entry into the United States for 90 days (from the date the Executive Order was signed) of “immigrants and nonimmigrants” who are nationals (and dual nationals traveling under the passports of) at least seven countries (currently: Iran, Iraq, Libya, Somalia, Sudan, Syria and Yemen).
Initially, attorneys in USCIS offices across the U.S. reported being told that USCIS would be halting the adjudication of all “I-forms” (e.g. I-130’s, I 140’s, I-485s, etc. — those related to permanent residence) where the applicant or beneficiary is a citizen or dual citizen of one of the seven listed countries. However, yesterday February 2, 2017, USCIS Acting Director Lori Scialabba issued a memo stating that President Trump’s January 27, 2017 memo does not affect USCIS adjudication of applications and petitions filed for or on behalf of individuals within the United States. The memo specifically notes that it will continue to adjudicate under existing policies and guidelines all affirmative asylum applications, as well as all Form I-485 (Application to Register Permanent Residence or Adjust Status) and I-730 (Refugee/Asylee Relative Petition) beneficiaries inside the U.S. from the seven prioritized countries, with the caveat that guidance for such I-730 beneficiaries outside the U.S. will be forthcoming.
Finally, USCIS will continue refugee interviews for the seven prioritized countries “when the person is a religious minority in his or her country of nationality facing religious persecution” and noted they will not approve a refugee application for an individual determined to pose a risk to U.S. security or welfare. As before, there is no clarification on what it means to be a “religious minority”.
Seattle Federal Judge Grants NATIONWIDE Temporary Restraining Order Against EO
At approximately 3:45 PST, U.S. District Judge James Robart of the Western District of Washington (located in Seattle) issued a Temporary Restraining Order that blocks any implementation of the EO. This restraining order has immediate, nationwide effect, as opposed to prior court orders that were specific to certain visa classes, airports, or individuals and lasted a finite period of time. The Temporary Restraining Order will remain in effect while the Court hears the merits of the lawsuit, which maintains the EO is unconstitutional because in both intent and effect it discriminates on the bases of national origin and religion, and is motivated by discriminatory animus and bears no rational relationship to its purported ends of preventing terrorist attacks.
The case was initially brought by the Attorney General’s Office from the State of Washington, was joined by the State of Minnesota, and is supported by major U.S. corporations located in the State of Washington, including Microsoft, Expedia, and Amazon. In a statement following Judge Robart’s decision, Attorney General Bob Ferguson stated, ” No one is above the law – not even the President.” According to the Washington Attorney General’s office in their statement, today’s Court order negates the Department of State’s blanket “provisional” revocation of all approved and otherwise valid immigrant and nonimmigrant visas for nationals of the seven designated countries.
We will provide further updates as they become available.
If you wish to take action in response to the EO, the ACLU and the American Immigration Council are two organizations accepting donations to fund the mobilization of legal opposition and representation for individuals and communities affected by the EO. If you are a U.S. citizen or permanent resident, call your Representative and Senators to express your opinion on the EO and how it affects you, your family, and your community. If you belong to a labor union, a religious organization, or community advocacy group, speak to them about organizing a collective response to the EO. If you are working for a U.S. company or corporation, consult with your employer about their reaching out to the appropriate elected officials in an official capacity.