By Isaac Adams, Esquire
On January 25 and 27, 2017, President Donald Trump signed three executive orders with wide-ranging impact on immigration. The January 27, 2017 executive order has received the most attention in the media for its wide-ranging travel ban for immigrants from seven countries: Iran, Iraq, Libya, Somalia, Sudan, Syria, and Yemen. As initially executed, the order suspended travel for 90 days for all immigrants from those countries, even for Legal Permanent Residents. As of February 3, 2017, the travel-ban portions of this executive order have been placed on a temporary hold by federal courts and are no longer in effect until further action is taken by the courts or the President.
Despite the court rulings regarding the travel ban, portions of the January 27, 2017 executive order are still in effect, including the 120 day suspension of the refugee program and the indefinite suspension of the Syria refugee program.
The two executive orders signed by President Trump on January 25, 2017 ordered the construction of a border wall on the U.S.-Mexico border and called for changes in how we prioritize immigration enforcement. While President Trump has now authorized the building of a border wall, the wall will cost more to build than is currently available, which means that congress will have to approve funding for the wall before any major progress can be made on that order.
The order seeking to change enforcement priorities calls for the expansion of expedited removal and broadens the definition of criminality for immigration purposes. The expedited removal procedures in effect before this executive order had already been expanded significantly and have been shown to undermine fundamental due process protections. This expansion is likely to deprive legitimate asylum seekers the opportunity to receive the protection they are entitled to under U.S. and international law.
The order also expands the definition of criminality to include immigrants who have been charged with a crime or who have committed acts that might be construed as crimes. Among these potential criminal acts are illegal border crossings and visa overstays. By expanding the definition of criminality to include most unauthorized immigrants, this order has made the concept or prioritizing criminals essentially meaningless and prevents DHS from prioritizing violent criminals for detention and removal before non-violent immigrants.
While these orders are likely to have wide-ranging effects as they move forward, they are being challenged in the courts and members of the U.S. House of Representatives and the Senate have introduced legislation that will attempt to rescind and defund parts of these orders. A great deal remains unclear about the extent to which these orders will be implemented and how they will be implemented. What is clear is that the federal courts and qualified immigration attorneys are essential to ensuring that the fundamental due process rights of immigrants are protected during these tumultuous times.