UPDATE - On February 20, 2017, the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) issued two memoranda implementing President Trump's Border Security and Immigration Enforcment laws. The two Memos are "Implementing the President's Border Security and Immigraiton Enforcement Improvements Policies (Enforcement Improvements)" and the "Enforcement of the Inmigration Laws to Serve the National Interest (National Interest Enforcement)"

The Enforcement Improvement Memo is more prospective with focus on aliens with valid visas such as tourist, student, working visas (or those at border crossings) who are applying for admission or seeking entry into the U.S.noting that 'lawful detention of aliens arriving in the United States and deemed inadmissible ..pending final determination of whether to order them removed...is the most efficient means by which to enforce the immigration laws at our borders."

Second, the Enforcement Improvement Memo shall expand the 287(g) program - authorizing state or local law enforcement officials to investigate, identify, apprehend, arrest, dtain, transport and conduct searches of an alien for the purposes of enforcing immigration laws."

ICE AGE. The National Interest Enforcement Memo on the other hand, specifies the DHS priorities for immediate deportation or removal, and hiring of addtional 10,000 officers and agents for the Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE), one of three agencies under the DHS.  The other two are the Customs and Border Protection ((CBP) immigration officers at ports of entry; and the U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services, the agency that confers immigraiton benefits such as extension of stay, change of nonimmigrant status, adjustment of status from nonimmimgrant to immigrant and citizenship from lawful permanent residency.

Based on the thrust of the Trump administration's immigration priorities, the current and immediate future for immigrants can be aptly called the ICE age.

History of the Executive Order

On January 27, 2017, U.S. President Donald Trump signed and issued an Executive Order (EO) banning refugees and U.S. visa holders from coming to or being admitted into the United States.

The EO directs the Secretaries of Homeland Security, State Department and the Director of National Intelligence to “immediately conduct a review to determine the information needed from any country to adjudicate any visa, admission, or other benefit under the INA (Immigration and Nationality Act) in order to determine that the individual seeking the benefit is who the individual claims to be and is not a security or public safety threat.”

White House revised ban after worldwide protest and confusion

After legal challenges in court resulting in a nationwide injunction,  the Trump administration 'clarified'it's order,  particularly for green card holders.  However,  implementation of the order as issued and rexported refusalS of immigration officers at port of entry adds to the uncertainty and wisdom of traveling to the U. S.  Here's the report on the White House backtracking on part of the order - 

It became clear almost immediately after the issuance of the EO that the Trump administration has not fully informed the agencies tasked to implement the order creating chaos at airports worldwide for those getting on their flights to the U.S. or those who are at U.S ports of entry with valid visas and even lawful permanent residents with green cards.

Court Blocks Implementation of Ban

Immigrant Advocacy groups brought a legal challenge to Federal court, citing “irreparable harm” to individuals affected by Mr. Trump’s Executive Order as well as the unconstitutionality of the executive directive. 

Federal Judge Anne M. Donnelly issued a temporary nationwide injunction prohibiting the administrative agencies from implementing Mr. Trump’s executive order.  In addition to this nationwide temporary restraining petition filed by the American Civil Liberties Union,  there were at least four other court orders against the ban, - in Boston,  Brooklyn,  Seattle and Alexandria. The advocacy groups include the International Refugee Assistance Project and the National Immigration Law Center. 

On Feb. 3, another Federal judge, James L. Robart issued a ruling temporarily blocking President Trump's travel ban on 7 predomilnantly Muslim countries. The 9th Circuit Appeals Court refused to lift the suspension of Mr. Trump's Executive Order. To date, the Department of Justice has not indicated if it will elevate the matter to the Supreme Court or have the full 9th Circuit Court decide on the issue.  In the meantime, Mr. Trump said he will issue a revised Executive Order on immigration instead of pursuing the one locked at the 9th District.

WHAT TO KNOW FIRST AND WHAT TO DO NEXT

The Executive Order covers all visa applicants, refugees and even legal permanent residents with green cards.  Check the category that best describes your case or situation. While the White House was forced to revise it's earlier order and said that green card holders are not covered by the ban,  lawful permanent residents in or outside the United States should take an abundance of caution before traveling. 

Visa or Immigration Case Scenarios.

In the following situations the visa applicant or visa holder -

  1. Has not yet applied. If you have not yet scheduled an appointment postpone the scheduling process.  Unless you really have to travel, be sure your documents are all updated, valid and the information on your visa, passport and other travel documents are consistent.
  2. Has received the visa. If you have a single entry visa with annotation, and you must complete the purpose of your trip be sure all your travel documents are in order (as above).  If you have a multiple entry visa for more than a year and your trip is not urgent, let the situation play out first.  The Court has issued an order stopping the Department of Homeland Security and other agencies from implementing the ban.  The immigrant advocacy groups have started the legal challenge and a class action suit is on the way.
  3. Is at a port of entry. Remember that the visa - regardless of duration, even if it is for the maximum 10 years - is only a document that allows you to board the plane and present the visa to an immigration officer at the port entry, then wait for the decision of the officer whether to let you in or ask you to take the next flight back. When asked about the purpose of your visit, be sure you give the same answer that you gave to the consular officer at the Embassy. Stay calm, and answer the questions directly, in a friendly tone, smile, initiate eye contact and be composed.  Do not bring items and luggage more than you actually need for the temporary stay.  Unless you pare a student with a valid F-1, M-1 or J-1 visa, do not bring any documents describing or confirming your education and qualifications such as a diploma, transcript of records, assessment of credentials, evidence of English language proficiency etc.  If you are coming on a temporary work visa, be sure you can answer who the employer or sponsor is, what are your duties, how long you intend to work, original approval notice from the U.S. Citizenship Immigration Services and certification from the U.S. Department of Labor/Employment Training Organization.
  4. Already in the U.S. Check the period of authorized stay that the immigration officer (Border Protection) has indicated either on your passport or arrival departure document.  If you have to extend your stay or change your nonimmigrant status to another nonimmigrant category, be sure you submit the application well ahead of time (before your initial authorized stay expires) and submit an application for an extension of stay in the status you were admitted as.
  5. Is Waiting for decision on your Change of Nonimmigrant Status and Extension of Stay. As long as your application was received by the U.S. CIS on time- as indicated in the Notice of Action/Receipt Notice, your stay in the U.S. is legal.  Be aware that if you were admitted as an H-1B temporary worker, current rules allow you to work for a new or another employer even while waiting for the approval of the new work visa as long as you remain in legal status. Click this link for the official US CIS regulations on change of nonilmmmigrant status - https://www.uscis.gov/visit-united-states/change-my-nonimmigrant-status-category/change-my-nonimmigrant-status
  6. Application for change of status refused. Application for extension of stay approved.  Your presence in the U.S. remains lawful until the date indicated in your travel or admission document.  Since your application to change your status from tourist to student for example has been denied, you need to re-evaluate your situation if submitting an appeal or returning home to the Philippines would be better and from there renew your application for student or work visa as the case maybe.  Better still, consult an immigration attorney in the United States. For guidance, click here for the Extension of Stay Guide from the U.S. CIS. - https://www.uscis.gov/sites/default/files/USCIS/Resources/C1en.pdf
  7. Application for extension of stay has been refused. Application for change of nonimmigrant category still pending. In rare cases where your application for extension of stay in your current status is refused while your application for change of category has been approved, the latter would allow you to start work or study (as the case may be).  Be sure to read the complete notice of approval in case there are certain clauses and provisions that may affect your situation. Again, it is preferable to consult with a immigration lawyer in the U.S  There are Filipino American papers that are available at Filipino stores, restaurants,  remittance centers, banks, and at Philippine consulates.  You may also ask for a referral from a friend or relative you are staying with or have access to.
  8. Application for adjustment of status has been submitted. In certain cases such as when an immigrant visa petition for you in the Family or Employment-based category has become current and a visa is already available, you ma apply to adjust your status from temporary to permanent resident. Check the Visa Bulletin and how fast (or slow the cut-off dates are moving) here – https://www.visacenter.org/countries/usa

Be sure you have disclosed the existence of an immigrant visa petition filed on your behalf when you applied for and was issued your temporary visa. Otherwise, your application for adjustment of status may be refused for non-disclosure or misrepresentation of material facts.  Such a violation would result in a removal or deportation order and/or permanent bar from being admitted into the United States, regardless of who the President is.

        9. Is a green card holder needing to visit the Philippines and return to the U.S. Evaluate whether you really have to make the trip back home.  The Department of Homeland Security has announced that green card holders could be subjected to secondary inspection and further interrogation as to the purpose of the visit to your home country and why you have been gone for the specific period of time. Be sure to check your mail and records for any court appearance you need to attend, jury selection, traffic violation, credit collection, child or spouse support.  Even if you have not been convicted, the charges alone would be enough to get a removal or deportation hearing started – if you are allowed entry. Otherwise, you may be excluded (not allowed to enter) your green card confiscated and ordered returned to the Philippines on the first flight back

10.  Lost the green card while visiting or outside the U.S. You need to apply for and get a travel document from the U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services at the U.S. Embassy or Consulate of the country where you are.  The boarding letter would allow you to board an aircraft or airline. However, be ready to answer questions at the port of entry to prove that you are a lawful permanent resident, that the circumstances for the issuance of your green card was on the up and up, you had no intention of abandoning your permanent resident status and you remain eligible for the category for which you were admitted as a legal permanent resident.  Whatever the case, be sure to have a color copy of your green card (permanent resident card) in your wallet, take a photo with your mobile phone, tablet and have it ready for presentation in case you need to establish your eligibility to be allowed back to resume your lawful permanent residency. Then upon admission or being allowed back, immediately apply for a replacement of your green card and if eligible apply for naturalization as a U.S. citizen.

Canada as Alternative Migration Destination

Just north of the border, Prime Minister Justin Trudeau and the Canadian government reaffirm the country's commitment to accept Syrian refugees, increase the number of immigrants to be accepted this year and enhance acceptance procedures for international students' pathway to permanent residency.  Click below for the various options that Canada offers .https://www.visacenter.org/countries/can

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About the Author

Crispin Aranda

Crispin Aranda

Crispin R. Aranda is an established International Visa Conselor and Immigrant Advocate. He is the president of IVC and is in several migration radio programs.


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