Changing Tides in Immigration

By: Brooklee Hurst

Campaign promises became reality when President Trump signed executive orders calling for immediate action towards strengthening our nation’s borders. President Trump cites an influx of narcotics and gang-related activity coming from Mexico and other South American countries, as well as potential threats posed by the acceptance of Syrian refugees, to support his “rather safe than sorry” approach to our national security. However, President Trump’s executive orders received vehement backlash from a vast number of Americans. Many view President Trump’s orders as an attack on the fundamental principles upon which our nation was founded.

Professor Darlene Goring, a professor of immigration law at the Paul M. Hebert Law Center, notes that his orders are inconsistent with the way our country has historically welcomed immigrants. Goring explains that our immigration policies have been neutral in regards to race and ethnicity since the mid-1900s, and it is troubling that President Trump is taking our policies back to a time where race and ethnicity are considered. According to Goring, there is an appropriate way to regulate the status of undocumented persons and grant them amnesty, but President Trump’s adversarial approach raises concern. Goring does not doubt that some aspects of his immigration orders may be lawful, but portions of the edict have already conflicted with established law, leading the new administration to backtrack from some of their hardline policies.

On January 27th, President Trump signed an executive order, entitled “Protecting the Nation from Foreign Terrorist Entry into the United States,” which temporarily halted immigration into the United States. The order stipulates that citizens of Iran, Iraq, Libya, Somalia, Sudan, Syria, and Yemen who hold nonimmigrant visas or immigrant visas are not allowed entry into the United States for a period 90 days, with the exception of diplomats and officials travelling to the United Nations. Refugees from anywhere in the world are not allowed entry for 120 days while the government strengthens screening processes in order to safeguard the nation against possible terrorists. In addition, the order places an indefinite ban on refugees from Syria. Individuals with legal residency in the United States will be allowed to board flights and will be processed for a waiver upon their arrival. His order also requires interviews for all visa applicants at U.S. Embassies and consulates around the world.

On January 28th, the American Civil Liberties Union filed a writ of habeas corpus on behalf of two brothers with Iraqi visas who were detained in John F. Kennedy International Airport in New York City. In response to the suit, U.S. Federal District Judge Ann Donnelly granted an emergency stay on the immigration ban, ruling that individuals detained nation wide could not be forced back to their original destinations. On February 3rd, in response to a separate suit involving detainees, U.S. Federal District Judge James Robart issued a restraining order to halt President Trump’s order nationwide and allow travel to proceed as it did before the immigration ban was executed.

The Department of Justice subsequently filed an appeal with Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals in San Francisco. On February 9th, a three judge panel presiding over the Ninth Circuit unanimously ruled to deny the Department of Justice’s request for an emergency stay, holding that the government failed to provide evidence that immigrants from the seven affected countries carried out terrorist attacks on U.S. soil. It remains to be seen if the Administration will further appeal the block on President Trump’s travel ban to the Supreme Court.

One of President Trump’s main focuses during his campaign was the construction of a physical wall between the US and Mexico borders. The President kept his promise and within a month of his presidency ordered the homeland security secretary to take steps to immediately plan, design, and construct a physical wall. As he vowed on the campaign trail, President Trumps intends to build the wall using federal funds, but later receive reimbursement from Mexico for its construction. In addition to the wall, the President has ordered the Department of Homeland Security to hire 5,000 additional border patrol agents and 10,000 additional immigration officers. These officers will be trained to detain, arrest, and search for believed non-citizens or non-nationals.

This major dismantling and restructure of the nation’s immigration policies raises many questions and apprehensions. One question in particular concerns the policies regulating immigration from Cuba, specifically the ‘Wet-foot/dry-foot’ policy. Under the old approach, any Cubans apprehended at sea by the Coast Guard were returned to the island (unless they made a credible case for asylum), while those who reached the shore were allowed to stay in the United States, enabling them to receive green cards after one year. Under the new policy, Cuban immigrants will be considered for asylum if they request it, but if not (or if they have no credible case), they will be deported to Cuba or kept in detention pending the resolution of their case.

Just days before President Trump’s inauguration, President Obama repealed the ‘Wet-foot/dry-foot’ policy. President Obama reasoned that improved relations with Cuba allowed Cuban immigrants to be treated the same as immigrants from around the world. Since 1995, the policy has afforded Cubans who reach American shores the right to stay in the country and be placed on an accelerated path to citizenship, a privilege not granted to other immigrants who attempt entry without a visa. The notion of ‘illegality’ and the rhetoric surrounding the term historically has not applied to Cubans. In response to the abolishment of ‘Wet-foot/dry-foot,’ Many Cuban immigrants are now looking to President Trump to reenact the policy in order gain asylum in America, with the benefits previously afforded to them under prior administrations. In light of President Trump’s recent immigration policies, it is unclear how he will regulate the issue of Cuban immigration going forward.

President Trump’s swift implementation of his immigration agenda represents his first major battleground in a larger plan to reinvent Washington politics. While the initial wave of policy change triggered unrest across the country, the strength of the orders remains to be seen in context of three courtroom defeats. The fate of President’s Trumps immigration order will likely fall to our nation’s highest court, reserving the ultimate check of power to the independent judiciary branch.