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President Trump Executive Orders
Frequently Asked Questions

Please note that immigration policy is changing frequently. Check back to these FAQs periodically for important updates. (Last update February 14, 2017).

***Translations coming soon***

In January 2017, President Trump issued three Executive Orders directly applicable to immigrants. The Orders affected foreign nationals already inside the U.S. and foreign nationals seeking to travel here. One of the Orders, entitled “Protecting the Nation From Foreign Terrorist Entry Into the United States,” which we will refer to as “the Muslim and Refugee Ban” or just as “the Ban,” was temporarily blocked on February 3, 2017 by the United States District Court for the Western District of Washington.[1] That judge’s decision was upheld by the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit on February 9, 2017. While these are promising developments, they do not yet permanently block the Ban. In addition, the President’s other two Orders targeting immigrants are still in effect.

Collectively, the Executive Orders are complicated, convoluted, and (at least in part) unconstitutional. As such, it may take some time for them to be interpreted and implemented by different agencies, or to be struck down by federal courts. Below are answers to frequently asked questions many of you have sent us over the last few weeks. As always, Immigration Equality will look for every opportunity to fight to keep our community safe.

In many instances, we note that international travel may be risky for some people. Nevertheless, we appreciate that there are times when travel may be a necessity. To know the individualized risk of international travel to you, please consult with a reputable immigration attorney before leaving the United States. [2] For additional guidance or for a referral to a culturally competent attorney, contact Immigration Equality at: www.immigrationequality.org/contact.[3]

Travel and the Muslim and Refugee Ban[4]

I am originally from Iran, Iraq, Libya, Somalia, Sudan, Syria, or Yemen, but now I am a U.S. citizen. Does the Muslim and Refugee Ban affect me?

If you are a United States citizen, you may travel outside of the country even if you were originally from one of the seven banned nations, no matter what happens. U.S. citizens must always be allowed to re-enter the United States. At the same time, as a U.S. citizen, you cannot be subjected to deportation, ever. We recommend that you carry proof of your U.S. citizenship with you. If you are a citizen and you have had problems entering the U.S., please contact Immigration Equality immediately.

I am originally from Iran, Iraq, Libya, Somalia, Sudan, Syria, or Yemen, but now I am a permanent resident of the U.S. How does the Muslim and Refugee Ban affect me?

The Muslim and Refugee Ban instructs the U.S. government to bar individuals from seven nations from entering the country even if they had green cards. However, federal courts have temporarily blocked the Executive Order from being implemented. In the very near future, a trial will be held to determine whether the Muslim and Refugee Ban is illegal or unconstitutional. That may result in all or part of the Order being struck down, or the Courts’ stays may be lifted.  For now, the U.S. government is not allowed to implement the Muslim and Refugee Ban.

Nevertheless, if you are a permanent resident of the United States who is from one of the seven banned nations, and you are currently in the U.S., we recommend that you avoid international travel for the foreseeable future. If you are a permanent resident of the United States from one of the seven banned nations, and you are currently outside of the U.S., we recommend that you return as soon as possible. In the short time that the Muslim and Refugee Ban was being implemented, the Department of Homeland Security was considering entry for permanent residents only on a case-by-case basis. If the Courts’ stays are lifted, you will not be guaranteed entry. Many permanent residents reported extensive questioning and long delays at the border even if they were eventually admitted. [5]

I am originally from Iran, Iraq, Libya, Somalia, Sudan, Syria, or Yemen, and I am neither a U.S. citizen nor a permanent resident of the U.S. How does the Muslim and Refugee Ban affect me?

The Muslim and Refugee Ban barred individuals from seven nations from entering the U.S. even if they had valid immigration papers. For now, federal courts have temporarily blocked the Executive Order from being implemented. In the very near future, a trial will be held to determine whether the Muslim and Refugee Ban is illegal or unconstitutional. That may result in all or part of the Order being struck down, or the Courts’ stays may be lifted. For now, the U.S. government is barred from implementing the Muslim and Refugee Ban.

If you are neither a United States citizen nor a permanent resident, and you are currently in the U.S., we advise that you do not travel abroad for the foreseeable future. If you are currently outside of the U.S., and you are seeking to enter on a non-immigrant visa (including tourist visas, fiancé(e) visas, work visas, student visas, etc.), you should do so immediately. Before the Ban was halted, many individuals from the seven banned nations were not allowed on airplanes to fly to the U.S. even if they had previously lived here for years and had valid visas.

Note that if you are a dual national of one of the seven banned countries and a non-banned country, you may be allowed to enter on a case-by-case basis even if the Ban is reinstated. Be sure to carry with you the passport of the non-banned nation if you attempt entry into the United States.

I am NOT from one of the seven banned countries. How does the Muslim and Refugee Ban affect me?

If you are living in the United States with lawful status and you are not from one of the banned nations, your ability to enter or re-enter the United States should not have changed.[6] However, the Ban itself was arbitrary in nature and deeply disconcerting. That is, the President repeatedly indicated that its purpose was to target Muslims, which is not a legitimate government interest. In addition, the Executive Order states that additional countries may be added to the list of banned nations. Given how broad the previous Executive Orders have been, we have concerns about future Executive Orders that may be issued. And, where federal courts are reviewing the constitutionality of the travel ban, it may well be that the President simply re-writes it. If so, a new Order might well create different and additional restrictions. International travel for anyone who is not a U.S. citizen may carry risks.

We also note that we have heard some reports of visa holders, green card holders, and some citizens targeted by border patrol for invasive questioning. However, most of the reports we have heard were from individuals who were eventually admitted into the United States. Immigration Equality is committed to fighting the Muslim and Refugee Ban and any new restrictions on LGBTQ and HIV-positive immigrants. If you or your family members have been stopped at the border for more than three hours, contact Immigration Equality for help.

Refugees and Asylum Seekers

Does the Muslim and Refugee Ban affect LGBTQ and/or HIV-positive refugees who have been cleared to resettle in the United States?

While it was being implemented, the Muslim and Refugee Ban suspended ALL refugee resettlement from everywhere in the world for 120 days. That decision left too many LGBTQ and HIV-positive refugees stranded in unsafe places. In fact, refugees from Syria were indefinitely banned from entering the United States. These policies were unnecessary and inhumane, but they have been temporarily halted by the federal courts. For now, LGBTQ and HIV-positive refugees are being allowed to resettle in the U.S.

Refugees approved for resettlement in the United States often wait for years for the opportunity to start a new life here. All of them are heavily vetted by the U.S. government for months to assess whether they pose any risk to the American people. To date, almost no resettled refugee has ever been found to be a national security threat. For the thousands who are deemed to be safe and deserving, it is our legal duty and our moral obligation to provide them with a safe place to call home.

I am an LGBTQ and/or HIV-positive asylum seeker. Will the Executive Orders affect my application?

Despite the Executive Orders, many important aspects of the asylum framework remain the same. For example, the U.S. will continue to protect asylum seekers on the basis of sexual orientation and gender identity if they have a reasonable fear of persecution from their country of origin.

However, the Executive Orders may affect how asylum cases are adjudicated in the United States. For example, they call for prioritizing the cases of people in detention over other cases. This will likely mean that the very long wait time to have an asylum case adjudicated will increase for those who are not detained.[7]

Furthermore, the Executive Orders instruct the Department of Homeland Security to target for deportation anyone who has been convicted of a crime, who has been charged with a crime, or who has done something that could be deemed a “chargeable offense.” This language is very vague, and probably a violation of due process. It is not yet clear how the asylum offices or the immigration courts will implement these Orders. But for now, if you have any concerns about whether you may be at risk for being accused of a crime or a “chargeable offense,” you should speak with a reputable immigration attorney for advice.

The American asylum system is an absolute necessity for LGBTQ and HIV-positive people from all parts of the world. Everyone should have the right to express their sexual orientation and gender identity proudly and openly. At the same time, no one should ever be subjected to stigma or punishment because they are living with HIV. Our nation has long been a beacon of hope for those in need of protection. It must remain so. Immigration Equality will work every day to protect and preserve the asylum system for our community.

I am an LGBTQ person and/or a person living with HIV in the United States and I am from a nation where I cannot safely live.  Should I apply for asylum?

If you are eligible for asylum, we recommend that you apply.[8] Despite rapid changes and shifts in the Administration’s priorities, it is probably better for an eligible applicant to apply and have an application pending than to have nothing pending at all. However, many factors are considered in determining eligibility for asylum. A fear of persecution alone may not be sufficient for you to be successful. It is very important that you speak to a reputable immigration lawyer before you file any paperwork. Seeking an attorney’s advice is particularly important for anyone who has been accused of, charged with, or convicted of a crime.

How will the Executive Orders affect an applicant trying to apply for asylum at the border?

The new Executive Orders should not change an applicant’s right to apply for asylum at the border. However, even before the Executive Orders were released, it was very difficult to apply for asylum at the border.[9] We have heard many reports that asylum seekers are regularly turned away at the border even if they expressed a fear of persecution to border patrol officials. You do not need to apply for asylum at the border if you are admitted or if you cross the border without permission. That is, anyone inside the U.S. may apply for asylum from within the country. For now, most asylum applicants who apply from inside the U.S. are not being detained. Most applicants are also allowed to remain in the U.S. until a decision is made on their claim.

If you are detained by border patrol agents, and you would like to seek asylum in the United States, you should ask for a credible fear interview. Please note that if you are scheduled for a credible fear interview, you may wait for weeks or months in a detention facility before a judge makes a decision on your case. President Trump’s Executive Orders also focus additional resources on the creation of more detention facilities and make it much harder for detained asylum seekers to secure their release.

Immigration Equality has received many reports from detained asylum seekers that their parole requests are being denied and that they are not being given the option of a bond.  The refusal of the Department of Homeland Security to release LGBTQ and HIV-positive asylum seekers is very dangerous. While immigration detention is inhumane for all people, it is especially dangerous for LGBTQ immigrants. With the help of our pro bono network, we are currently ramping up our parole and bond practice in order to address this important need.

How will the Executive Orders affect my application for work authorization?

For now, there is no indication that a person’s eligibility for work authorization will be changed in any way. Much of the authority for work authorization comes from federal statutes that can only be changed by an act of Congress. Nevertheless, you may continue to expect delays in the processing of work authorization documents. This has been a trend, even before President Trump took office.

I have an asylum application pending, can I travel internationally?

If you have an application pending, and you leave the United States, your asylum application is likely to be deemed abandoned.  So if at all possible, do NOT travel. While there is some possibility to obtain permission to travel (through a process called advanced parole), such applications are rarely granted. If you desperately need to travel for an important humanitarian purpose, please contact Immigration Equality for a free consultation.

DACA, Green Card, and Citizenship Applications

I am eligible for Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA), should I apply or re-apply?

For now, DACA is continuing unchanged. The President has been inconsistent in his statements about DACA, and so it is unclear what he will do in the future. We have urged the President to continue the DACA program in order for the 750,000 individuals who now have DACA to continue to live, work, and study in the U.S. without fear of deportation.

For now, we recommend that you renew DACA if you have previously applied and you are eligible to renew your status. However, we are generally recommending that a person not file a brand new application if you have never filed before.  Of course, you may have compelling reasons to file a new application, and if you do, you should consult with a reputable immigration attorney before filing any papers.

While it may still be possible for someone with DACA to travel through advanced parole, doing so would be risky. We are hearing rumors that the Trump Administration is not granting advanced parole requests for individuals with DACA, though the government has not issued any official notice about advanced parole.

Will the Executive Orders affect my marriage or my marriage-based green card case?

The marriage battles that we have won over the last ten years are unlikely to be completely overturned under the new Administration. The Supreme Court issued two landmark decisions recognizing the rights of same-sex couples to marry in 2013 and 2015. While the Supreme Court occasionally overrules itself, it does so rarely and generally only after a very long time has passed. However, President Trump may also issue an Executive Order that encourages or empowers discrimination against lawfully married couples. Such an order would likely be unlawful and probably unconstitutional. Even if such an order is issued, sponsorship of a same-sex spouse for immigration benefits should remain an option unless there is a substantial, unconstitutional shift of power in the federal government.[10]

Immigration Equality stands with binational same-sex couples and their families! Our direct legal services are reserved for those who cannot afford to pay for a lawyer, and so we continue to represent low-income families every day. In addition, we have culturally competent referrals to private counsel for those who can afford to pay an attorney. If you are thinking about marrying a partner and about filing for a family-based immigration papers, we can help.

Will the Executive Orders affect my ability to obtain a fiancé(e) visa?

If you are not from one of the nations targeted by the Muslim and Refugee Ban, your fiancé(e) visa should be processed normally for the foreseeable future.

However, during the short time that the Muslim and Refugee Ban was being implemented, all visas – including fiancé(e) visas for U.S. citizens – were being denied or cancelled from the seven nations targeted by President Trump. This was an unconstitutional injustice for many families, but it was especially so for LGBTQ Americans seeking to sponsor their future spouses. This is because none of the seven nations targeted in the Muslim and Refugee Ban recognize marriage equality. As such, same-sex binational couples could not marry in the foreign national’s country nor in the U.S. This left couples with almost no options.[11]

Thanks to the federal courts’ decisions staying the Muslim and Refugee Ban, all fiancé(e) visas are currently being processed normally. However, it is unclear for how long the federal courts will block the Ban. If you are in a binational relationship, and one of you is from one of the seven targeted nations, please contact Immigration Equality. We can help.

I am eligible to apply for a green card or for naturalization, should I wait?

If you are eligible for a green card, or to become a citizen, you should apply to do so promptly. Becoming a permanent resident or a citizen substantially increases your security to live in America. However, if you have ever been accused of, charged with, or convicted of a crime, if you have ever filed incomplete or inaccurate immigration or visa papers in the past, or if you came to the U.S. without permission, you should consult with a reputable attorney before filing any paperwork.

Enforcement Priorities

What are “sanctuary cities” and how will the Executive Orders affect them?

“Sanctuary cities” (referred to as “sanctuary jurisdictions” in the Executive Orders) are states, counties, or cities that refuse to use their own resources to facilitate the deportation of immigrants. For example, in a sanctuary city, local authorities often will not hold a person for immigration agents to pick them up unless they are a danger to their community.

The Executive Orders imply that local authorities must help Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) to enforce the President’s mass deportation plans.  This is wrong.  Both the Department of Homeland Security and several courts have confirmed that the President cannot require local law enforcement to aid in someone’s deportation. Furthermore, for local law enforcement, the practice of detaining people without a warrant is problematic at best and unconstitutional at worst.

The Executive Orders also threaten to punish sanctuary cities by withholding federal funds from them. The President cannot legally do this.  It would be unconstitutional to force state and local governments to carry out federal responsibilities, and attempt to extort them in order to do so.

Many sanctuary cities, including New York, Los Angles, Chicago, New Haven, Syracuse and Austin, and many more, have committed to staying firm to protect the immigrants living in their jurisdictions.

I am an undocumented immigrant who has been accused of, charged with, or convicted of a crime. Am I considered an “enforcement priority”?

“Enforcement priorities” describe which immigrants the President has instructed the U.S. government to focus its deportation efforts on. While the U.S. government has long made individuals who have been convicted of a crime a priority for deportation, the Executive Orders appear to expand the definition of a conviction. One Order implies that just being accused of a chargeable offense is sufficient to make someone a deportation priority. How exactly this change would be carried out is still unclear. However, if you have had any negative interactions with law enforcement agents, the police, or immigration enforcement agents, seek legal counsel immediately.

The President’s presumption of guilt for immigrants who are only accused or charged with a crime is at odds with one of the most fundamental principles of the U.S. legal system. In America, you are presumed innocent until you are proven guilty. These provisions in the Executive Orders are overbroad and inhumane. Immigration Equality will make every effort to fight their implementation. But, until these provisions are revoked or struck down, they may well be used against LGBTQ or HIV-positive immigrants. If you are seeking to apply for naturalization, a family-based green card, for asylum, or for any other immigration benefit, we recommend you speak to a reputable attorney before filing any papers.

[1] While several other district courts also blocked the Muslim and Refugee Ban, the WA Court’s decision was the most expansive.

[2] Even if the Muslim and Refugee Ban does not apply to you, a person may still be excluded from the U.S. on a case-by-case basis for other reasons, such as overstaying a visa, being convicted of a crime, having expired documents, etc. A reputable attorney can help you to assess what other risks, if any, you may need to consider.

[3] Please be patient. While we will respond to every inquiry, we have experienced a great increase in requests for help since President Trump took office.

[4] For information about travel for fiancé(e)s of U.S. citizens, see the family section below.

[5] Shortly after the Courts blocked the Ban, the Department of Homeland Security issued a statement indicating that it was not in the public interest to block the entry of permanent residents.

[6] Please note that not all immigration statuses allow for international travel.

[7] If you have filed for asylum and your case is NOT in court, you can check the average wait time here: https://www.uscis.gov/humanitarian/refugees-asylum/asylum/affirmative-asylum-scheduling-bulletin. If your case IS in immigration court, you may check the date of your next hearing by calling toll free: 1-800-898-7180.

[8] You must be inside of the United States in order to apply for asylum.

[9] International airports in the United States are also considered to be “the border.” If you fly into the U.S. you should apply for asylum only after you have left the airport.

[10] Note: if you entered the United States originally without permission, you should consult with a reputable attorney before filing any paperwork.

[11] In theory, a couple could travel to a third country that recognized marriage equality and marry there. However, adding such an additional burden on a same-sex couple would be discriminatory, expensive, and logistically complicated.