On March 6, 2017 President Trump released a new Executive Order, effective on March 16, 2017, addressing refugee resettlement in the United States, revoking and replacing the controversial Executive Order 13769 that was released in January. The new order has significant similarities to and differences from the original order.
It is important to be aware of these changes, as well as the practical implications of this new order for refugees and refugee advocates. Many of the changes to the order are designed to address the legal challenges that arose immediately after the original order was issued, although many critics argue that the order is still discriminatory in purpose.
Immediate Implications of the New Executive Order
Barring a stay of the new order due to legal challenges, when it takes effect, the new order will have the following immediate implications:
- Suspend the U.S. Refugee Admissions Program (USRAP) for 120 days from the effective date of the new executive order;
- Prevent all people from Iran, Libya, Somalia, Sudan, Syria, and Yemen from entering the United States for any reason, subject to waivers, for 90 days;
- Limits the maximum number of refugees that may be admitted to the United States in 2017 to 50,000 (from 110,000 in 2016);
- Specify that immigrant or nonimmigrant visas issued before the effective date of the new executive order will not be revoked; and
- Specify that individuals whose visas were revoked or canceled due to the original order will receive documentation confirming their permission to travel to and seek entry in the United States.
The suspension of USRAP for four months, and the new limits on the number of refugees to be admitted into the United States will leave many people in vulnerable situations for a longer period of time. Admission to the United States for refugees from six restricted countries identified in the order will be subject to the discretion of immigration officials.
Refugees whose approved travel may have been cancelled after the release of the January order should be permitted to come to the United States or stay if they were admitted after being held at their airport of arrival.
In a notable departure from the original executive order, the new order expressly excludes Iraq from the list of countries from which entry into the United States is “paused.” It stipulates that applications from Iraqi nationals for visas, admission, or other immigration benefits should undergo thorough review, including whether the applicant has connections with ISIS or other terrorist organizations, or with territory that is or has been under significant ISIS influence, and other information that may be relevant to determining whether the applicant poses a risk to the United States.
The new restrictions on entry do not apply to:
- Lawful permanent residents of the United States;
- Foreign nationals with documents other than visas permitting them to travel to the United States, valid on or after the effective date of the executive order;
- Dual nationals of one of the six restricted countries when the individual is traveling on a passport issued by a non-restricted country;
- Foreign nationals traveling on certain diplomatic visas;
- Foreign nationals who have already been granted asylum in the United States, refugees who have already been admitted to the United States, or individuals who have already been granted protection under the Convention Against Torture.
Case-by-case waivers can be granted at the discretion of immigration officials for foreign nationals who do not fall under one of the above categories. The order stipulates that such waivers may be appropriate under the following circumstances:
- The foreign national was previously admitted to the United States for a long-term activity such as work or study, seeks to return to the United States to resume that activity, and would be impaired in their ability to resume the activity if denied reentry during the suspension period;
- The foreign national has significant contacts with the United States but is outside the country on the effective date of the order for work, study, or other lawful activity;
- The foreign national is trying to enter the United States for “significant business or professional obligations” and being denied entry during the suspension period would impair those obligations;
- The foreign national is trying to enter the United States to “visit or reside with a close family member” who is a U.S. citizen, lawful permanent resident, or non-citizen who was lawfully admitted on a valid nonimmigrant visa and being denied entry during the suspension period would cause undue hardship;
- The foreign national is a child or an individual requiring urgent medical care or who has otherwise justifiable special circumstances;
- The foreign national has worked for or on behalf of the United States Government (or is a dependent of such a person) and can document their service;
- The foreign national is traveling for an international organization or to conduct meetings or business with the United States Government, with stipulations related to designation under the International Organizations Immunities Act;
- The foreign national is a Canadian immigrant who applies for a visa within Canada;
- The foreign national is participating in a United States Government-sponsored exchange program.