Since its issuance on Jan. 27, 2017, the Executive Order on immigration (Trump’s E.O.) has been dissected because it is a “travel ban” of nationals from seven specific countries ( Iraq, Iran, Yemen, Syria, Sudan, Libya and Somalia) whose majority populations are Muslims. While the previous administration and Congress have characterized them as war-torn and posing ‘national security risks’ to the U.S., the present president’s acts have a far more unsettled effect on other nationals seeking entry into the U.S, whose visas, immigrant or non-immigrant, were issued in accordance with procedure. No one was spared: green card holders were detained at the airports, while visitor, student, and other non-immigrant visas were cancelled. The inevitable uproar from all over is fully deserved. Why the conundrum of heightened proportions?
A reading of the full text of the E.O. readily shows that it is not about the ‘Muslim ban’ or the ‘travel ban’. This major issue of constitutional infringement on the freedom of religion and affecting states’ vital interests seems to be a camouflage of what is still to come. The E.O. was issued to basically thwart possibilities or actual acts of terrorism in this country which could be perpetrated by foreign nationals who are admitted here. We all want to be safe but should the solution be hysterical rather than rational?
The future is a rollercoaster ride – whether you are a government agency, private law firm, an immigrant or a non-immigrant visa holder in the U.S. Briefly, the three major issues brought to light before the courts are: (a) whether the E.O. is unconstitutional as infringing upon freedom of religion and violating the equal protection clause as enshrined in the constitution; (b) whether the all-encompassing ban to restrict entry to the U.S. of nationals of these seven countries would cause ‘irreparable harm’ to the interests of the states and its constituents; and (c) whether or not it is within the powers of the president to suspend and/or refuse to allow nationals of other countries entry into the U.S., with no distinction as to whether or not they are immigrants or with valid visas.
A perusal of the E.O. would lead us to a significant provision which is more relevant to all nationals entering the United States. Section 4 with the sub-title: “Implementing Uniform Screening Standards for All Immigration Programs.” It mandates the relevant agencies involved in executing the immigration laws to review and/or re-evaluate its present screening standards of granting benefits to the end that individuals who intend to commit fraud, malice or harm post-admission can be sufficiently detected and immediately excluded from the United States. The same Section 4 further provides that a better screening mechanism has to be in place to detect at inception whether there is a ‘likelihood’ that the applicant can become a “positively contributing member of society” and has the “ability to make contributions to the national interests…” Section 4 has been drowned out of the public quagmire but it is important in the implementation process, hence, the infamous weekend disaster at airports around the country.
This nation is broadcasting to the whole world that the traditionally known system of governance in a democratic society known as “checks and balances” is hopefully still at play. The 3 branches of the government -executive, judicial and legislative, are co-equals, exercising power for the benefit of the governed. The E.O. zeroes in on the 7 countries with terrorist leanings but as a businessman the president must know that the world has gone global, what about the other 188 countries? No implementing rules were in place when the E.O. was issued. Section 4 is a blanket justification for the U.S. Department of Homeland Security and Department of State to maintain a new posture in adjudicating cases, i.e., more vigilance and a stricter policy in evaluating and adjudicating of all immigration benefits applied for. It actually has ‘lifespans’ such as 30-60-120 day deadlines and the ‘travel ban’ is supposed to be temporary while reports are drafted by the appointed agencies nd submitted to the President to use in further issuing Executive Orders which can be more definite, expansive and permanent ‘travel bans’ to the 7 and other nations which can be added to the list. We are just beginning to feel the heat of extreme vetting without due process. Is this how democracy works? Destroy the hopes of refugees and other immigrants, close the door to visitors but without a clear policy targeting terrorists. So vigilance please, executive orders are double edge swords.
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Maria Rita Reyes-Stuby is a licensed attorney in Michigan. She is a graduate of the University of the Philippines College of Law. She specializes in immigration and practices in Las Vegas, Michigan, California and other states. Bernadette Bretana, a graduate of the Ateneo Law School and Ms. Stuby are licensed attorneys in the Philippines. Please call @702-403-4704 or email her at firstname.lastname@example.org or go to www.mrstubylaw.com for any questions on this article.