This Week’s Hearings:
- On Wednesday, March 15, the Senate Judiciary Committee has scheduled a hearing titled “Vows for Visas: Investigating K-1 Fiance Fraud.”
- On Wednesday, March 15, the Senate Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs Committee has scheduled a business meeting to consider the nomination of the Honorable Elaine Duke to be Deputy Secretary, U.S. Department of Homeland Security and legislation.
- On Thursday, March 16, the House Armed Services Subcommittee on Readiness has scheduled a hearing titled “Current State of the U.S. Navy.”
- On Thursday, March 16, the House Homeland Security Subcommittee on Oversight and Management Efficiency has scheduled a hearing titled “Immigration Benefits Vetting: Examining Critical Weaknesses in USCIS Systems.”
Executive Branch Activity
President Trump Signs Updated Executive Order on Travel to the US
On Monday, March 6, President Trump signed an Executive Order (EO) titled “Protecting the Nation From Foreign Terrorist Entry Into the United States.” The EO revokes and replaces a previous EO of the same title issued on January 27, 2017 (EO 13769) that was stayed by the Ninth Circuit of the U.S. Court of Appeals on February 9.
The revised EO includes many provisions similar to those contained in EO 13769. Effective March 16, 2017, the EO:
- Temporarily suspends the entry of foreign nationals from Iran, Libya, Sudan, Somalia, Syria, and Yemen into the United States for a 90 day period.
- Directs the development of a list of countries for which the entry of foreign nationals into the United States should be temporarily prohibited based on a lack of information affecting adequate vetting of individuals attempting to enter the United States from those countries.
- Suspends the U.S. Refugee Admissions Program (USRAP) for 120 days and directs a review of the USRAP application process to determine what additional vetting procedures are required to ensure refugees “do not pose a threat to the security or welfare of the United States.”
- Suspends the Visa Waiver Interview Program and requires all individuals seeking a nonimmigrant visa to undergo an in-person interview.
- Directs the collection of information regarding the number of foreign nationals who have been “radicalized” in the United States and engaged in terrorism-related activities.
- Reduces the total number of refugees allowed to enter the United States in Fiscal Year 2017 from 110,000 to 50,000.
However, the March EO differs from its predecessor in several keys ways:
- The revised EO contains a delayed effective date, set for March 16, 2017.
- The revised EO does not prohibit the admission of foreign nationals from Iraq into the United States.
- The revised EO includes language detailing the scope of implementation and exempts certain individuals from the prohibition on entry into the United States. Exemptions apply to individuals such as: (1) lawful residents of the United States; (2) diplomats; (3) individuals who have already been granted asylum; (4) refugees who have already been admitted to the United States; and (5) current visa holders. The revised EO also allows for case-by-case waivers under certain circumstances including: (1) foreign nationals admitted for continuous work or study; (2) foreign nationals seeking to enter the United States for significant business or professional obligations; or (3) foreign nationals seeking to visit close family members who are United States citizens.
- The revised EO removes the indefinite ban on Syrian refugees and language directing the prioritization of refugee claims made by individuals who are religious minorities.
The EO was accompanied by a Memorandum for the Secretary of State, Secretary of Homeland Security, and Attorney General providing guidance on “Implementing Immediate Heightened Screening and Vetting of Applications for Visas and Other Immigration Benefits, Ensuring Enforcement of All Laws for Entry into the United States, and Increasing Transparency among Departments and Agencies of the Federal Government and for the American People.” The Memorandum directs the Secretary of State and Secretary of Homeland Security, in consultation with the Attorney General, to implement protocols to enhance the screening and vetting of applications for visas and other immigration benefits to “increase the safety and security of the American people.”
The new EO already faces stiff legal challenges. The State of Hawaii filed suit against the EO and additional states have indicated their intention to join the litigation, including Oregon and New York. The State of Washington initially sought to have its Restraining Order against the original EO apply to the new EO, but the judge in that case is requiring an amended complaint in that case before ruling on the matter. Cases have also been brought by individuals and nonprofits in Maryland and Wisconsin, the latter already resulting in a limited Temporary Restraining Order disallowing the new EO’s application against the family of a U.S.-based Syrian man who was already granted asylum and seeks to bring his family to the U.S. Action in all cases is expected this week, along with several likely new cases.
DHS Secretary Condemns Attacks on Jewish Institutions
On Thursday, March 9, Secretary of Homeland Security John Kelly released a statement condemning recent seemingly hate-inspired attacks in the United States, which include roughly 140 reported bomb threats against Jewish institutions since January 4, 2017. Nearly 100 incidents were reported against Jewish Community Centers (JCCs) and Jewish day schools at 81 locations in 33 states in the first two months of 2017, according to the Jewish Federations of North America. In his statement, Secretary Kelly pledged to provide the full support of the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) to local, state, and federal investigations into these incidents and announced that he has directed the Office for Civil Rights and Civil Liberties to conduct outreach to support affected groups.
He stated that “The Office of Civil Rights and Civil Liberties will hold Incident Communication Coordination Team calls with impacted communities. The DHS Office of International Engagement will also continue to work with foreign governments whose nationals have been affected by these violent acts. The United States has a history of welcoming and accepting individuals regardless of religion, race, ethnicity, or national origin. Freedom of religion is a cherished American value, guaranteed by the United States Constitution. DHS is committed to protecting all people’s right to that essential freedom.”
The full statement is available here.