CHN: Advocates Rally against Refugee Halt and Travel Bans from 7 Muslim Nations; Court Rulings Temporarily Overturn Trump Orders

Advocates across the country responded with outrage and concern to President Trump’s executive order effectively banning Muslims from seven countries from entering the U.S. and suspending the refugee resettlement program. Protests were held at airports and other public places, and the Twitter feeds, phone lines, and email boxes of the Trump Administration and members of Congress were flooded with calls to rescind the ban, seen as unconstitutional and un-American. The National Immigration Law Center, a member of CHN, was one of a number of civil rights groups that filed a legal challenge to the executive order that led to quick court decisions to stay the removal of travelers caught up in the order’s enforcement. On February 3, Judge James Robart of the Federal District Court in Seattle reversed the President’s order nationwide both for refugees and for immigrants from the seven predominantly Muslim nations. The next day, the Trump Administration sought to appeal the ruling, but its attempt to have it immediately blocked was rejected, with more arguments to be presented to a three-judge panel of the 9th Circuit Court of Appeals on Monday, Feb. 6 and may eventually go to the Supreme Court. NILC has participated in numerous calls and webinars to update advocates on the situation, and they continue to fight the ban.

Sen. Dianne Feinstein (D-CA) introduced a bill, S. 240, to rescind the executive order. The bill has 45 cosponsors, all Democrats and Independents. Rep. Zoe Lofgren (D-CA) introduced H.R. 724 to defund and reverse the order; this bill has 186 cosponsors, all Democrats. For more information, see these pieces from Friends Committee on National Legislation.

The Washington Post and Vox also reported that the Trump Administration is considering another order that would further restrict immigrants and potential immigrants who use or would be expected to use public benefits. Based on the leaked draft, the order would make certain lawfully present immigrants or applicants more at risk of being designated a “public charge.” Under current law, that designation applies to a recipient (or expected recipient) of cash assistance (such as TANF or SSI) or long-term nursing home care. If signed by President Trump as drafted, the order would significantly expand the types of benefits that could be considered in a “public charge” determination, making relevant “any public benefits for which eligibility or amount is determined in any way on the basis of income, resources or financial need.” Although the benefits to be included within the new definition of “public charge” are not spelled out, they could include free or reduced-price school meals, WIC, or Pell grants.

According to existing law, changes to “public charge” language by executive order would not apply to refugees or other humanitarian immigrants or to decisions about naturalization, but could apply to immigrants seeking to become lawful permanent residents (LPRs). Expectation that they would be or have been “public charges” would be grounds for denying a visa application or granting a green card; current LPR’s who leave the country for more than 180 days could be denied readmission; and current LPR’s who utilize benefits within five years of entering the country could even be deported in some circumstances.

If signed as drafted, the order would also make immigrants’ sponsors liable for virtually any benefits used. Additionally, it would require taxpaying parents and well as children to have Social Security Numbers in order to receive the Child Tax Credit. This would hurt U.S. citizen children whose immigrant parents use an Individual Taxpayer Identification Number (ITIN) to file taxes.

This proposal would dramatically alter immigration policies and practices that have been in effect for a century, under both Republican and Democratic administrations. Since 1996, LPR’s already are banned from receiving SNAP, TANF, Medicaid, CHIP and SSI for five years (LPR children, however, are eligible for SNAP, and in certain states are eligible for Medicaid and CHIP). Receipt of legally received benefits, even years previously, could under the draft order be grounds for deportation.

Advocates stressed that this order is only in draft form at this time and could be changed or discarded. They also note that unlike other executive orders recently signed by the President, this one would require a lengthy period for public comments and rule-making before it could take effect, and some of the proposed changes require congressional action. For more information, see this piece from the Migration Policy Institute.

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