The Past Refugee Vetting Process and the New EO

On January 27 President Trump signed the controversial Executive Order (EO) that directly affected the nation’s immigration policy. Since then, there have been many reports that seem to state contradictory things. Was it a Muslim Ban? Was anyone harmed by this EO, and if so, who? What exactly happened in court involving this EO? What happens now? This post intends on clearing the ambiguity. Having a stance is always important, but knowing the facts comes first.

What did it say?

  • The EO suspended all applications from refugees for a full 120 days
  • Suspended all Syrian refugee applications indefinitely
  • Banned all travel from 7 nations (Iran, Iraq, Libya, Somalia, Sudan, Syria, and Yemen) Temporarily banned entry to dual-citizens holding citizenship to one of the mentioned 7 nations for 90 days
  • Prioritized refugee claims based on minority religious affiliation
  • Lowered the allotted number of refugees accepted during 2017 from 110,000 to 50,000

Here are the numbered steps of the former United States’ standing refugee policy before the signing of the EO. The refugee application process took approximately 18 months to 2 years on average. Applicants would first submit for refugee status through the UN and the USA. After the UN completed an initial review and approved their refugee status, federal agencies within the USA roll up their sleeves. To make this quick:

  1. The State Department sends contractors to conduct an interview with the applicant
  2. The State Department conducts a background check of the applicant
  3. If needed, a background check of higher intensity is conducted
  4. Another background check is conducted as a failsafe for all applicants – even if the higher intensity one is not requested for
  5. The FBI takes their finger prints are taken along with a photograph to go along with their file Homeland Security checks their fingerprints
  6. The Defense Department checks their fingerprints, their case is then reviewed by the US immigration headquarters
  7. Homeland security then conducts an extensive in-person interview
  8. Homeland security then approves their case
  9. Applicants are screened for contagious diseases
  10. Applicants receive cultural integration classes
  11. Applicants are matched with a resettlement agency within the US and a multi-agency security check is conducted to ensure applicant has not misbehaved since last background check
  12. Finally, they receive a final security check once they land in the US.

*It should be noted many of these steps have expiration dates. Many applicants would have to start over because of the EO.

What about other parts of the EO?

First, by banning all travel from those 7 countries, did that include permanent residents and US citizens? Initially, yes. Any and all travel from these nations was immediately halted following the signing of this EO on January 27. Another important fact to mention is that these 7 nations have been under close scrutiny in recent years for reasons such as political instability; however, no acts of terrorism have been committed on US soil from people originating from these nations.

What exactly does the EO mean when it bans entry from dual-citizens from the 7 nations? This is best illustrated with an example: if a person has citizenship in Yemen and France, and was traveling from France, they were still barred entry into the USA due to their Yemen citizenship.

There are many other issues and implications at hand involving the EO that we will not discuss here for the sake of time; however, if you check FINOP’s Facebook feed and some of the links in the Resources tab at the top of your screen, you can read more on this topic.

Didn’t some of this change before reaching litigation?

After the original signing of the EO, a flurry of action took place. Immediately following its signing, it took affect. This applied to even those in midflight, and many were detained across the nation upon their immediate arrival. By the following evening, 11 people with valid visas had been detained in the JFK Airport due to the fact the EO went into affect while they were midflight. Many preapproved refugees, green card holders, and visa holders were removed from their flights in the hours following the EO. Estimates suggest over 100 people were either detained in US airports and were not allowed to get on their flight to the US.

However, on the following day, a federal judge from New York signed a temporary restraining order that required all detainees to be released. On the Sunday following the signing of the EO on Friday, Department of Homeland Security began to allow permanent residents and US citizens from the 7 countries on a case-by-case basis, to ensure they posed on serious threat to national security.

On the subsequent Tuesday, Customs and Border Control began allowing dual-citizens from the 7 nations, but only if they showed paperwork from their other nation. Back to our example, if the dual citizen from Yemen and France showed a French passport, they were granted entry; however, if they showed their passport from Yemen, they were still denied entry. Following this myriad of changes, several courts across the nation began reacting to the EO, but in the next post, we will only focus on the path to the 9th Circuit’s decision.

Stay tuned for the next blog post on the current state of the 9th Circuit’s ruling. Click the subscribe tab at the top of your screen to stay updated on our postings.


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