President Donald Trump’s various immigration policies have sent shockwaves around the world. His January travel ban was blocked and then revised in March and now, in recent announcement of his budget proposal, it looks like the radical changes to US immigration policy are certainly set to continue.
The revised travel ban, which was signed on the 6th March 2017 suspended the US refugee program for 120 days, and refused all entry to the US for national citizens from six different countries – Iran, Libya, Somalia, Sudan, Syria and Yemen – even if they had valid visas, until June 14, 2017. The revised ban, however, only applies to those who did not already have a valid visa on January 27, 2017, and March 16, 2017, and were also outside of the United States on March 16, 2017. While Iraqi nationals were removed from the list of countries that received a straight up ban of entry, they will have to undergo extra vetting at the border, and may even be required to consult with the Department of Defense.
The reasoning for this ban was asserted to be due to numerous foreign-born individuals who were convicted or implicated in terrorism-related crimes since 2001, among whom were refugees. It was not, contrary to public opinion, motivated by animosity towards any particular religion. There are also case-by-case exceptions that can be made to the ban, and the executive order describes nine specific scenarios in which a waiver may be appropriate, including foreign nationals admitted for work or study, or seeking to visit an immediate family member who is a lawful resident of the United States.
As this travel ban approaches its deadline, it is unclear whether the President will move to impose any more travel sanctions on these particular countries, or seek to make restrictions more permanent. The 1,284 page budget proposal, however, which was released on May 23, 2017, could mean major changes to US immigration law. The budget, rather than targeting immigrants with authorized visas and green cards, is focusing on the deportation of unauthorized immigrants, including those within “sanctuary” jurisdictions.
“Sanctuary” cities and jurisdictions employ various policies which limit their cooperation with federal immigration agents. Trump’s budget however, wants local police departments and jails to detain any suspected unauthorized immigrants for up to 48 hours until federal immigration agents then gain custody. These requests are at present voluntary unless accompanied by court order or warrant. No federal law exists to make them compulsory as federal courts in the past have ruled that it would violate Fourth Amendment rights. It comes as little surprise then that this latest Trump immigration policy on sanctuary cities has already been blocked by Judge William H Orrick.
This block, however, is currently just a setback for Trump immigration policy. The Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit has just recently heard arguments from both sides of the case. It was the Ninth Circuit who halted the January travel ban and forced its revision, and it is likely that this battle of Trump immigration policy will end up with the Supreme Court. Until then, however, certain jurisdictions of the USA can still offer “sanctuary” to unauthorized immigrants.
While immigration restrictions in the US continue to get tighter, it remains unclear whether any permanent travel bans will be put in place, or whether all unauthorized immigrants will be at risk of deportation. One thing is for certain, however, and that is that this legal immigration battle is going to be long fought.