The American Immigration Lawyers Association (AILA) issued a statement on January 27th denouncing the President’s Executive Order on immigration. In the statement, entitled “Targeting Muslims and Refugees Betrays American Values and Will Not Make Us Safer,” AILA Executive Director Benjamin Johnson warns, “Make no mistake: This Executive Order is a thinly veiled effort to make good on the President’s promise to ban all Muslims from coming to the United States and to end our long, proud history as a leader in providing protection to those fleeing persecution.”
AILA summarized the Executive Order as follows:
- Suspends the refugee program for 120 days and suspends the Syrian refugee program indefinitely;
- Caps refugee resettlement numbers at 50,000 for FY 2017;
- Suspends immigrant and nonimmigrant entry for people from predominantly Muslim countries for a minimum of 90 days while the government undertakes a review of visa issuance and immigration benefits processes;
- Requires in-person interviews for nonimmigrant visa applicants;
- Establishes requirements for “extreme vetting”;
- Prioritizes refugees whose claims are based on religious persecution but only if the person’s religion is a minority in their country of origin;
- Directs the Secretary of Homeland Security to expedite the completion of an entry-exit system.
The President has framed the Executive Order as a necessary security measure to combat and prevent terrorism within the U.S. It has been widely criticized as an unconstitutional ban on Muslims that does not achieve its stated purpose. AILA President William A. Stock offered this reminder: “Refugees are already required to go through an extremely rigorous vetting and security clearance process. These people are literally fleeing for their lives and the lives of their children. Shuttering our refugee program in a time of great need is the wrong thing to do. Rather than slamming the door, we should be welcoming them and offering the protection which America has historically provided as the beacon of light to the world.” He warned, “President Trump makes it seem like these changes will be temporary by ‘suspending’ programs, but based on the positions he has taken and the stringent conditions imposed, the U.S. refugee program will be severely crippled.”
Hundreds of immigration attorneys rushed to airports across the country to offer legal aid to detainees who were affected by the Executive Order. Lawsuits were filed on behalf of detainees, and several federal courts have already ruled to halt implementation of the order. AILA issued a Call for Examples of those affected by the ban, and also provides advocacy suggestions for those interested in taking action.