Well, this is a fine kettle of fish. It turns out that the executive order that bans Muslims from seven countries from entering the U.S. was so badly written that DHS is interpreting the order to include permanent residents of the U.S.—those who hold green cards—from returning home after a trip abroad.
If that interpretation holds, it would mean that hundreds of thousands of legal U.S. residents currently abroad will be unable to return home to their families. Not only that, it probably means a quick reversal of the order by the courts.
Gillian Christensen, acting spokeswoman for the Homeland Security Department, said the executive order “will bar green card holders,” in an email to Reuters.
People who have green cards have been granted authorization to live and work in the U.S. on a permanent basis, according to DHS’s Citizenship and Immigration Services.
Trump signed two national security-related executive orders on Friday, one aimed at rebuilding the military. The other one suspended issuing visas to “countries of particular concern” and barred refugees from entering the U.S. for 120 days in order to give the Trump administration time to evaluate its vetting process.
Permanent residents of the U.S. are protected by all the constitutional rights that citizens are. It’s hard to see how a court would countenance one set of rules for citizens and another for permanent residents.
When details leaked earlier this week about a spate of immigration-related executive orders from President Donald Trump, much public discussion focused on a 30-day ban on new visas for citizens from seven “terror-prone” countries.
But the order signed this afternoon by Trump is actually more severe, increasing the ban to 90 days. And its effects could extend well beyond preventing newcomers from Iran, Iraq, Libya, Somalia, Sudan and Yemen, from entering the U.S., lawyers consulted by ProPublica said.
It’s also expected to have substantial effects on hundreds of thousands of people from these countries who already live in the U.S. under green cards or on temporary student or employee visas.
Since the order’s travel ban applies to all “aliens” — a term that encompasses anyone who isn’t an American citizen — it could bar those with current visas or even green cards from returning to the U.S. from trips abroad, said Stephen Legomsky, a former chief counsel to the U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services under President Obama.
“It’s extraordinarily cruel,” he said.
The order bans the “entry” of foreigners from those countries and specifically exempts from the ban those who hold certain diplomatic visas.
Not included in the exemption, however, are those who hold long-term temporary visas — such as students or employees — who have the right to live in the United States for years at a time, as well as to travel abroad and back as they please.
“If applied literally, this provision would bar even those visitors who had made temporary trips abroad, for example a student who went home on winter break and is now returning,” Legomsky said on Friday evening executive order.
DHS has not said anything about Muslim green card holders who are serving in the U.S. military being granted an exception under the new rules. It is possible they could be stranded if they are returning from one of the target countries.
I don’t think this is necessarily “cruel” as much as it is stupid. The executive order should have been more carefully drawn up if DHS is as serious about enforcing the order as they indicate they will be. I doubt very much if it was the president’s intention to bar green card holders from returning home. But knowing Trump, he may now embrace that interpretation rather than admit a mistake.
What a mess.