Widespread uncertainty as U.S. travel ban
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[June 29, 2017]
By Mica Rosenberg, Andrew Chung and Yeganeh Torbati
WASHINGTON/NEW YORK (Reuters) - One day
before President Donald Trump's temporary ban on all refugees and
travelers from six predominantly Muslim countries is scheduled to take
effect, there is still widespread uncertainty about how the
administration will implement it.
The confusion follows a U.S. Supreme Court decision on Monday that
allowed the long-delayed executive order to take effect, but
significantly narrowed its scope. It exempted travelers and refugees who
have a "bona fide relationship" with a person or entity in the United
As of Wednesday, the main federal departments and agencies responsible
for implementing the ban had not issued official legal guidance to staff
in the field or to the public. Among the questions to be resolved are
what qualifies as a "bona fide" connection and how pending and future
visa and refugee applications will be handled during the period of the
Many immigrant and refugee agencies say they need more details in order
to prepare their clients for what to expect.
Without guidance from the administration, "it’s easy to game out a
number of ways this could go off the rails," said Johnathan Smith, legal
director of legal advocacy group Muslim Advocates.
The U.S. State Department on Tuesday said it was waiting for legal
guidance from attorneys at the Department of Justice.
U.S. Homeland Security Secretary John Kelly said on Wednesday he told
DHS employees he wants to tread carefully in implementing the order.
“I told my folks I didn’t want to come anywhere near close to getting
crosswise with the court. I think that’s the right way to be a public
servant,” Kelly said, adding that he expects the government will win the
case when it is heard this fall.
David Lapan, a DHS spokesman, said additional information will be
released on Thursday, the day the ban is to start. A Justice Department
spokesman declined to comment.
The ban's looming enforcement against nationals of Iran, Libya, Syria,
Somalia, Sudan and Yemen stirred anger and confusion in parts of the
Middle East on Wednesday, with would-be visitors worried about their
travel plans and their futures.
Kiyanoush Razaghi, an immigration attorney in Maryland with primarily
Iranian clients, said he has received a flurry of messages from Iranians
wondering what it would mean for their plans to enter the United States.
The Supreme Court specifically mentioned family ties and job or
university offers as reasons to exempt someone from the ban, but did not
mention such issues as business or professional conference travel.
Airlines in the region said they had not received a directive from the
United States, and there were few people at the U.S. Consulate in Dubai,
where there is normally a line out the door of people waiting to process
The State Department has said it does not plan to cancel previously
scheduled visa appointments for residents of the six countries.
[to top of second column]
An international passenger arrives at Washington Dulles
International Airport after the U.S. Supreme Court granted parts of
the Trump administration's emergency request to put its travel ban
into effect later in the week pending further judicial review, in
Dulles, Virginia, U.S.,on June 26, 2017. REUTERS/James Lawler
Trump issued the ban in a March 6 executive order, saying it was a
temporary measure needed to allow the administration to review the
vetting process for immigrants from those countries. Travel from the
six countries was banned for 90 days and for all refugees for 120
But lower courts in Maryland and Hawaii blocked the order, saying it
was a pretext for targeting Muslims and violated the U.S.
Constitution's prohibition on favoring one religion over another.
The Supreme Court then narrowed the scope of the lower court
REFUGEES IN LIMBO
Refugee advocates are struggling to understand what the court ruling
will mean to applicants in the pipeline.
The State Department on Tuesday said the United States has already
admitted about 49,000 refugees for the fiscal year ending in
September, while Trump's executive order set a cap of 50,000.
The high court's decision allowed the cap take effect, but only
against those who do not have a “bona fide” connection.
Refugee resettlement agencies are poised to argue that their
relationships with individual refugees, which entail coordination
with the U.S. government, sometimes over the course of years, meets
the Supreme Court's standard.
If the government accepts that view, it would likely mean that every
refugee already cleared for resettlement would be eligible to enter
the United States.
A narrower approach limiting entry only to refugees with U.S. family
members would shut out some of the most vulnerable populations, said
Eleanor Acer, from the organization Human Rights First.
Many refugees being resettled in the United States already have U.S.
ties, but those that do not include children in need of urgent
medical care and women who are victims of human trafficking, she
The State Department has told refugee resettlement partners abroad
that they should proceed with resettlement of refugees scheduled to
travel to the United States through July 6.
(Additional reporting by Lawrence Hurley and David Shepardson;
editing by Sue Horton and Dan Grebler)
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