By now you probably know President Order issued a new travel ban on March 6. On the same day he issued a memorandum calling for the immediate implementation of enhanced screening and vetting procedures and directs executive branch agencies to “rigorously enforce” all existing grounds of inadmissibility and monitor compliance with related laws after a person has been admitted, without making exceptions for minor, technical violations.

Here’s my rant on Trump’s policies. Skip this paragraph if you just want the details of the memo. As an immigration lawyer familiar with the convoluted processes people encounter to enter and remain in the U.S., change their visa category, etc. I can say the current systems already carry out “enhanced vetting.” Trump is appealing to people’s fears, not to reality, in these orders. As he might say, it’s sad! And it’s really not a beautiful thing. It’s going to slow immigration processes down more even more, which could very well be their goal – he’s quite happy to make immigrants wait wait wait for their applications to be considered. On the national level, he’s making the U.S. unattractive to perfectly law-abiding foreign nationals as well as to the nasty terrorists that he sees lurking around every corner. Applications from international students are already down significantly at U.S. colleges and universities, tourists may choose to go somewhere more welcoming, and it’s likely there will be additional and ongoing economic and cultural consequences to all these “keep them out” actions.

Back to the details of the memo: it calls for the Departments of State, Homeland Security and Justice and other relevant agencies and departments to focus on:

  • Preventing foreign nationals who may “aid, support, or commit violent, criminal, or terrorist acts” from entering the U.S.; 
  • Ensuring collection of information needed to “rigorously evaluate” all inadmissibility and deportability grounds, or “grounds for the denial of other immigration benefits;”
  • Rigorously enforcing all existing grounds of inadmissibility and to ensure subsequent compliance with related laws after admission.
  • Issuing new rules, regulations, or guidance to enforce those grounds and related laws. Any new rules will supersede all previous rules if they conflict.

What does this mean? If you apply for a visa to the U.S.at a foreign embassy the consular officer will look at your history even more carefully than before, and they should not ignore small technical past violations such as a short unintentional overstay. When you apply at the border, even if you have a valid visa in hand, you will again be scrutinized (that already happens). Also, if you are legally in the U.S. and want to change your status, for example from a visitor to a student, that’s going to be subject to heightened scrutiny. And anyone who is not a citizen can be deported if they’ve broken immigration laws; according to this memo, there will be no or little forgiveness for even minor breaches.

The memo also calls for more transparency and reporting on visa issuance and and other immigration matters, including costs of refugee admissions programs. It’s a sad day when the United States of America, historically the pre-eminent “Nation of Nations” refuses entry to and chases out people seeking to achieve their American Dream, or just looking for a place of refuge in a turbulent world.

 

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