Start of re­vised ban less chaotic

Travel rules face new le­gal chal­lenge

Northwest Arkansas Democrat-Gazette - - FRONT PAGE -

WASH­ING­TON — Pres­i­dent Don­ald Trump’s re­vised travel ban was im­ple­mented without the chaos seen in Jan­uary un­der the orig­i­nal ex­ec­u­tive or­der. But the new rules im­me­di­ately faced a new court chal­lenge, promis­ing fur­ther le­gal wran­gling on the pres­i­dent’s sig­na­ture im­mi­gra­tion pol­icy.

The Depart­ment of Homeland Se­cu­rity said it had ex­pected a smooth im­ple­men­ta­tion.

“U.S. Cus­toms and Bor­der Pro­tec­tion of­fi­cers are trained and pre­pared to pro­fes­sion­ally process in ac­cor­dance with the laws of the United States per­sons with valid visas who present them­selves for en­try,” ac­cord­ing to a depart­ment state­ment. “We ex­pect no dis­rup­tions to ser­vice.”

Zahra Bil­loo, ex­ec­u­tive di­rec­tor of the Coun­cil of Amer­i­can Is­lamic Re­la­tions in San Fran­cisco, was at the city’s in­ter­na­tional air­port Thurs­day when the travel re­stric­tions took ef­fect, wait­ing for refugees and im­mi­grants in need of le­gal aid. Stand­ing among protesters who were ral­ly­ing against the pres­i­dent’s

de­cree, Bil­loo said she hopes Hawaii’s le­gal chal­lenge suc­ceeds.

“We’re hope­ful that con­tin­ued le­gal chal­lenges will make it near im­pos­si­ble for the Trump ad­min­is­tra­tion to im­ple­ment any por­tion of the Mus­lim or refugee ban,” she said, adding that the Supreme Court may be asked to clar­ify its rul­ing. “This is un­charted ter­ri­tory.”

A half-hour be­fore the ban took ef­fect, Hawaii asked a judge to clar­ify whether the gov­ern­ment vi­o­lated in­struc­tions from the U.S. Supreme Court in defin­ing who’s cov­ered by the ban and who’s ex­cluded. The U.S. Jus­tice Depart­ment de­clined to com­ment.

To min­i­mize dis­rup­tions this time, the State Depart­ment, the Homeland Se­cu­rity Depart­ment and the Jus­tice Depart­ment co­or­di­nated in ad­vance to es­tab­lish clearer guide­lines for thou­sands of con­sular of­fi­cers, air­lines and trav­el­ers. And un­like in Jan­uary, when hun­dreds of trav­el­ers ar­riv­ing in the U.S. were turned back or de­tained at air­ports, those al­ready hold­ing a valid visa will be let in.

“The Amer­i­can pub­lic could have le­git­i­mate con­cerns about their safety when we open our doors,” State Depart­ment spokesman Heather Nauert said at a brief­ing Thurs­day. “We want to open our doors to peo­ple who are will­ing to go through proper screen­ing mea­sures and who want to be here and want to be pro­duc­tive mem­bers of our so­ci­ety.”

The lat­est ef­fort fol­lowed a U.S. Supreme Court rul­ing this week that trav­el­ers from the six na­tions — Iran, Libya, So­ma­lia, Su­dan, Syria and Ye­men — with “bona fide” con­nec­tions in the U.S. be ex­empted from the travel ban. That def­i­ni­tion was in­ter­preted to mean that trav­el­ers with spe­cific, close fam­ily mem­bers in the U.S., in­clud­ing spouses, chil­dren, and sib­lings, could be let in. But peo­ple whose clos­est con­nec­tions are grand­par­ents, aunts and un­cles could be barred.

Stu­dents or trav­el­ers with busi­ness or pro­fes­sional ties from the af­fected coun­tries also are ex­empt if they can show a re­la­tion­ship that’s for­mal and doc­u­mented and not based on an in­tent to evade the ban.

Hawaii is now tak­ing is­sue with how the gov­ern­ment de­fines fam­ily ties.

“Our con­cern is that when you read their def­i­ni­tion of what con­sti­tutes a close fam­ily re­la­tion­ship, they’re cut­ting out a lot of peo­ple,” said the state’s at­tor­ney gen­eral, Doug Chin. He filed his emer­gency re­quest Thurs­day for clar­i­fi­ca­tion with the same judge, Der­rick Wat­son, who pre­vi­ously blocked Trump’s March ex­ec­u­tive or­der from tak­ing ef­fect.

In Iran, For­eign Min­is­ter Mo­ham­mad Javad Zarif de­nounced the par­tial re­in­state­ment of the travel ban as a “truly shame­ful ex­hi­bi­tion of blind hos­til­ity to all Ira­ni­ans” — and ar­gued that the mea­sure will pre­vent Ira­nian grand­moth­ers from see­ing their grand­chil­dren in Amer­ica.

Zarif, who has per­sis­tently as­sailed the travel ban, wrote on his Twit­ter ac­count that the “U.S. now bans Ira­nian grand­moth­ers from see­ing their grand­chil­dren, in a truly shame­ful ex­hi­bi­tion of blind hos­til­ity to all Ira­ni­ans.”

Speak­ing to re­porters on back­ground, with an agree­ment to anonymity, an ad­min­is­tra­tion of­fi­cial said the U.S. needs ev­ery avail­able tool to keep ter­ror­ists from com­ing to the coun­try.

The State Depart­ment’s of­fi­cial guid­ance, which was posted on its web­site, grants sig­nif­i­cant dis­cre­tion to con­sular of­fi­cers who will ap­prove visas in U.S. em­bassies and out­posts around the world. For ex­am­ple, guid­ance sent to em­bassies says that con­sular of­fi­cers can de­ter­mine whether grant­ing a visa to an ap­pli­cant from one of the six na­tions would be in the U.S.’s na­tional in­ter­est, even if they don’t have the close fa­mil­ial con­nec­tions nor­mally re­quired.

Yet many of the orig­i­nal crit­i­cisms of the ban re­main. Ad­min­is­tra­tion of­fi­cials wouldn’t ex­plain why the ban tar­gets the six coun­tries or why refugees are deemed a threat to na­tional se­cu­rity. Of 784,000 refugees re­set­tled in the U.S. since 2011, just three were ar­rested for al­legedly plan­ning ter­ror­ist ac­tiv­i­ties, ac­cord­ing to the Mi­gra­tion Pol­icy In­sti­tute.

The gov­ern­ment quickly backed off on at least one con­tro­ver­sial re­stric­tion. In a ver­sion of the new rules posted ear­lier Thurs­day, peo­ple en­gaged to be mar­ried weren’t among those deemed as hav­ing “bona fide” ties. But later in the day, without ex­pla­na­tion, the State Depart­ment up­dated its guid­ance to say that such peo­ple would be treated as close fam­ily mem­bers.

Be­fore the State Depart­ment re­lented, im­mi­gra­tion lawyers said it made no sense to ex­clude peo­ple en­gaged to wed be­cause there is al­ready rig­or­ous vet­ting aimed at root­ing out mar­riage fraud.

For­eign­ers en­gaged to marry a U.S. cit­i­zen have long had to pro­vide de­tailed doc­u­men­ta­tion of the re­la­tion­ship’s au­then­tic­ity and un­dergo back­ground checks to get a fi­ance or fi­ancee visa, known as a K-1.

Scru­tiny of such visas in­creased after the 2015 San Bernardino, Calif., mas­sacre that left 14 peo­ple dead. Tash­feen Ma­lik, who car­ried out the at­tack with her U.S.born hus­band, came to this

coun­try in 2014 on a fi­ancee visa. She was from Pak­istan, a coun­try not cov­ered by the travel ban.

The K-1 pro­gram is one of the small­est visa pro­grams man­aged by the gov­ern­ment. Out of the more than 10.3 mil­lion non­im­mi­grant visas is­sued in fis­cal 2016, just 38,403 — roughly 0.3 per­cent — were K-1 visas.

Gov­ern­ment of­fi­cials gave no ex­pla­na­tion for why fi­ances and fi­ancees were omit­ted in the first place but said the de­ci­sion to al­low en­gaged cou­ples to be to­gether was based in part on lan­guage in the Im­mi­gra­tion and Na­tion­al­ity Act, the law long used to de­ter­mine what con­sti­tutes a close re­la­tion­ship.

Those seek­ing to bring their be­trothed to the U.S. faced a roller coaster of re­ac­tions as the scaled-back travel ban was put in place.

Shukri Ab­dul, a 34-yearold med­i­cal in­ter­preter from St. Paul, Minn., has been plan­ning to fly to Malaysia on Mon­day to meet her fi­ance ahead of his in­ter­view for a K-1 visa. After hours of un­cer­tainty and an­guish, she is still plan­ning to go.

The pair have known each other since they were young chil­dren grow­ing up in So­ma­lia. While Ab­dul later moved to the United States and be­came a cit­i­zen, they re­con­nected last year on Face­book. She went to see him in So­ma­lia, and they got en­gaged, but Ab­dul said she didn’t want to run off and get mar­ried without her five chil­dren there to sup­port them.

“That is why we were do­ing the wed­ding here, not there,” she said. “They were ex­cited for me to get hap­pi­ness.”

Paul Got­tinger, who ap­plied nearly a year ago to bring his Ira­nian fi­ancee to the United States so they could be mar­ried, went to bed Thurs­day feel­ing hope­less.

Got­tinger said he met his 32-year-old fi­ancee, who is a food en­gi­neer, on­line. He said the pair trav­eled to Is­tan­bul to meet in per­son in 2016 and de­cided to marry a month later. The cou­ple ap­plied for the visa nearly a year ago but are still wait­ing on a de­ci­sion from the U.S. gov­ern­ment.

“It’s a very un­con­ven­tional and try­ing process,” he said. “But for us, we’re in love and we’re go­ing to do this.”

He said they have talked about mov­ing to Iran, but there are con­cerns for his safety as an Amer­i­can.

“We’re re­ally just kind of trapped be­tween both of our coun­tries,” Got­tinger said. “We’re not go­ing to give up and just stop lov­ing some­one.”

The Supreme Court’s de­ci­sion also re­vived Trump’s ef­forts to sus­pend refugee ad­mis­sions for 120 days and to re­duce the max­i­mum num­ber of refugees al­lowed into the coun­try to 50,000 from 110,000. The pres­i­dent has cited the risk of ter­ror­ists slip­ping into the U.S., while crit­ics have said the ban dis­crim­i­nates against Mus­lims.

Refugee Coun­cil USA has asked that the U.S. give a blan­ket waiver to un­ac­com­pa­nied chil­dren even if they don’t have a “bona fide” re­la­tion­ship with peo­ple or en­ti­ties in the U.S.

“This pop­u­la­tion of ex­traor­di­nar­ily vul­ner­a­ble refugee chil­dren, who have lost or been sep­a­rated from their par­ents, of­ten have no other op­tions,” the group said in a let­ter sent June 28 to Sec­re­tary of State Rex Tiller­son and John Kelly, the sec­re­tary of homeland se­cu­rity. “As a re­sult, they should not be left in harm’s way.”

Non­govern­men­tal or­ga­ni­za­tions and refugee ad­vo­cates have strug­gled to de­ter­mine how many peo­ple will ac­tu­ally be af­fected by the new re­stric­tions. The U.S. has al­ready ad­mit­ted about 49,000 refugees so far this year, just shy of the ex­ec­u­tive or­der’s 50,000 cap.

In­for­ma­tion for this ar­ti­cle was con­trib­uted by Nick Wad­hams, Justin Mat­tingly, Kar­tikay Mehro­tra, Jennifer Ja­cobs, Deena Kamel Yousef, Nafeesa Sy­eed, Reade Pick­ert, Mary Sch­langen­stein and Arit John of Bloomberg News and by Colleen Long, Matthew Lee, Ali­cia A. Cald­well, Amy Taxin, An­drew Dal­ton, Michael Noble and Deepti Ha­jela of The As­so­ci­ated Press.

AP/Or­ange County Regis­tar/STEPHEN CARR

Im­mi­gra­tion at­tor­ney Mag­gie Castillo (left) of the Amer­i­can Im­mi­grants Lawyers As­so­ci­a­tion, of­fered her ser­vices at the Los An­ge­les In­ter­na­tional Air­port as the new travel ban af­fects peo­ple from six Mus­lim-ma­jor­ity coun­tries. A scaled-back ver­sion of Pres­i­dent Don­ald Trump’s travel ban took ef­fect Thurs­day evening.

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