Photo: Nicolas Raymond via Flickr (CC by 2.0)
Photo: Nicolas Raymond via Flickr (CC by 2.0)

On January 27, 2017, President Trump issued an Executive Order (EO) entitled “Protecting the Nation From Foreign Terrorist Entry Into the United States.”  Among other things, the EO attempted to implement a travel ban whereby individuals from Iran, Iraq, Libya, Somalia, Sudan, Syria and Yemen would be prohibited from entering the United States. Immediately, nationals from the named countries faced extraordinary hardship in entering the U.S.  Individuals with valid non-immigrant visas, such as F-1 student visas, H-1B work visas and other individuals with valid visas were affected. Green card holders (immigrant visa holders) were also affected.  These non-immigrants and immigrants are individuals who live in the United States, have family, jobs, homes, or other ties to the U.S., and who have gone through the lengthy and rigorous immigration process to obtain valid visas to enter the U.S. The EO extended to effect refugees who had been vetted by the U.S. government and granted refugee status by the U.S. to escape persecution.

Implementation of the EO was and continues to be fragmented for individuals attempting to enter the U.S.  By the evening of January 27, 2017, all non-U.S. citizens arriving from one of the named countries were detained upon arrival and some were prevented from boarding fights to the U.S. By January 29, 2017, some green card holders returning to the U.S. were forced to relinquish their green cards and were immediately deported.  Refugees who had been granted refugee status were prevented from entering the U.S. or detained.  Refugee admissions from Syria were indefinitely suspended.

The EO also affected foreign nationals inside the U.S.  On January 30, 2017, the US Customs and Immigration Service (“USCIS”) took the position that all pending immigration benefits applications on behalf of nationals of the named countries including petitions for asylum, adjustment of status, and naturalization, would be suspended indefinitely.

Lawsuits were immediately filed throughout the country seeking temporary restraining orders and other relief against the EO.  These lawsuits were initially filed in New York, NY; Boston, MA; Dulles, VA; Seattle, WA and Los Angeles, CA.  While these lawsuits were successful and the Courts issued orders prohibiting the Department of Homeland Security (“DHS”)  from implementing most aspects of the EO, the application of the program continued in various forms, as airlines prohibited nationals of the designated countries from boarding flights to the United States.

Today, Lufthansa  issued a statement lifting the ban, allowing individuals to fly to the United States for now.  Advocates for individuals affected by the EO are  hopeful that Lufthansa’s decision will remain in place and other airlines will follow suit.  However, nationals of the designated countries are being encouraged to immediately return to the U.S. before further changes occur.

Foreign nationals from the seven designated countries are also still being cautioned not to depart the United States, as the ability to re-enter is uncertain at this time.

There have been rumors that additional countries including Colombia and Venezuela have been added to the list of banned countries.  The Department of State has informed the American Immigration Lawyers’ Association (“AILA”)  that there is no addendum, annex, or amendment now being worked on to expand visa revocations or the travel ban to countries other than those currently implicated in the EO.  This includes Colombia and Venezuela which have been widely rumored to be under consideration. The Department  of State has confirmed that there is no information that supports such a rumor and asked that AILA members help end the spread of this false information.