What is the executive order or “travel ban”?

In January 2017, the president issued an executive order – which was later revised – that set in place travel restrictions for individuals from certain countries.  In addition, the order specifically sought to suspend the refugee resettlement program and to decrease the number of refugees set to enter the U.S. in 2017.  This order was commonly called a “travel ban”.

 

 

Timeline of Executive Orders and Court Rulings

January 27th: The president releases the first executive order, effective immediately.  Full text of Protecting the Nation from Foreign Terrorist Entry in the United States can be found here.

January 28th-29th: Federal judges in New York and Massachusetts temporarily block the order.

February 3rd: U.S. District Court judge blocks the ban nationwide.

February 9th: Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals rules against re-instating the executive order’s travel ban.  The White House chooses not to appeal the ruling.

March 6th: President releases revised executive order, set to go into effect on March 16th, 2017.  Full text of revised executive order can be found here.

March 15th: U.S. District Court judge in Hawaii blocks revised executive order.

March 16th: U.S. District Court judge in Maryland blocks part of the order related to a 90-day ban from six specific countries.

March 29th: Federal judge in Hawaii grants the state’s request for a longer halt of the revised executive order.

June 26th: The Supreme Court ruled to allow a limited version of the revised executive order to go into effect until they hear full arguments during their next session beginning in October.

September 24th: The president issued a new travel ban to replace the current, soon-to-expire ban.  The new ban will be effective as of October 18, 2017.  Full text of the Presidential Proclamation outlining the new ban can be found here.

October 10th: The Supreme Court dismissed one of the two cases that attempted to block the revised executive order from March 6th citing that “because that provision of the order ‘expired by its own terms’ on September 24th, 2017, the appeal no longer presents a ‘live case or controversy’”.

 

What did the President’s Executive Order from January 27th, 2017, entail?

As it relates to refugee resettlement, the executive order:

  • Suspended all refugee arrivals for at least 120 days, effective immediately
  • Revised the refugee ceiling from 110,000 to 50,000
  • Called for the development of a uniform screening procedure for all immigration programs [even though the refugee program was the only program to already have strict standards]
  • Gave future priority to refugees fleeing religious persecution
  • Suspended the admission of all Syrian refugees indefinitely
  • Suspended all entries (immigrant and nonimmigrant) for 90 days from countries considered to be “detrimental to the interests of the United States”, including Iraq, Iran, Libya, Somalia, Sudan, Syria, and Yemen

You can read the full text of the executive order, “Protecting the Nation from Foreign Terrorist Entry into the United States”, here.

 

How did the revised Executive Order, dated March 6th, 2017, compare with the first one?

As it relates to refugee resettlement, the revised order:

  • Removes language suggesting that religious minorities should receive preferential treatment
  • Does not indefinitely suspend Syrian refugees
  • Excludes Iraq from the list of ‘banned’ countries, meaning that Iraqi refugees will be accepted
  • Allows admission of refugees who were already cleared and scheduled to travel prior to effective date of the revised executive order
  • Still calls for a 120 day suspension of refugee arrivals, but indicates that refugee resettlement will resume after the 120 day period
  • Still seeks to decrease the FY2017 refugee ceiling from 110,000 to 50,000.
  • Still does not acknowledge that refugees were the only category of immigrants that were already being thoroughly vetted and continues to promulgate the image of refugees as terrorists

Full text of the revised executive order can be found here.

 

What did the Supreme Court’s June 2017 decision mean for refugees?

The proposed 120-day halt to refugee resettlement and the 50,000 cap on refugee arrivals for FY2017 officially went into effect.  Only refugees with a proven “bona fide” relationship to someone already living in the U.S. were to be allowed entry after the decision.

 

How have the executive orders and resulting “bans” affected refugee resettlement?

The executive orders, the resulting court cases, and the bans that have gone into effect have resulted in an exceedingly erratic pattern of refugee arrivals in fiscal year 2017.  Predicted arrival numbers for individual resettlement locations were fluctuating on a weekly or even daily basis, putting resettlement agencies in a state of constant disruption and reevaluation.  Funding for refugee resettlement agencies is based on refugee arrivals.  With far fewer arrivals than expected, resettlement agencies were left scrambling to find adequate funding to maintain staff and to continue offering beneficial programs for the existing refugee community.

Refugee resettlement agencies in Tucson have seen a significant decrease in arrivals over the course of the fiscal year, and in the last quarter of the year (July-September) especially.  Some agencies have lost staff members.  Programs that promote self-sufficiency, assist with assimilation, and enrich the lives of refugees in Tucson are also in jeopardy. Another legitimate concern is that – with so few refugee arrivals – community partners who help to house, employ, and prepare for new refugees are now turning elsewhere with their affordable housing, jobs, and volunteer hours.  Finally, there is a legitimate concern that local resettlement offices may be forced to close in the wake of the drastic changes imposed by the executive orders and newest travel ban.

 

What was Tucson Refugee Ministry’s response to the initial executive order?

We originally released this statement:

“We are saddened and concerned by the recent executive order halting refugee resettlement and banning Syrian refugees from entering the United States.  Although the ban has been temporarily lifted, it has already created an atmosphere of fear and misunderstandings about refugees and other immigrants.

The potential of terrorism is a realistic concern, and we acknowledge the fear this generates.  While we should put measures in place to protect our nation, we can value security while also welcoming refugees.  We can acknowledge that refugees are people fleeing situations of violence, oppression, and injustice, and welcome those individuals who have passed the already strict security screenings.  A fear of terrorism ought not rationalize a fear of refugees.  We believe that safety and compassion are not mutually exclusive. We stand with refugees around the world who are vulnerable and victimized.

We at Tucson Refugee Ministry remain steadfast in welcoming refugees with love and compassion.  We believe that this is what God calls us to do– to love God, and to love our neighbor.  We pray that the Church – God’s people – will rise up to be a source of hope to refugees at this time.”