VOL. 132 | NO. 32 | Tuesday, February 14, 2017
Immigration Attorney Cites Anxiety Over Next Steps in Federal Immigration Rules
By Bill Dries
An experienced Memphis immigration attorney says his advice to anyone who thinks they may be affected by the Trump administration immigration travel ban is “get back in” the U.S. even though the order’s enforcement remains on hold.
“What we’re telling people now is if you have employees, friends, family who are affected by the ban this is the time for them to be coming back in,” attorney David S. Jones of Fisher and Phillips LLP said at a Friday, Feb. 10, forum on immigration law in Germantown. “We don’t know what the future’s going to hold for immigration in that respect. We’re encouraging every one to get back in and then we’re also discouraging people from leaving.”
Jones said his advice stands even though the U.S. 9th Circuit Court of Appeals has kept in place a stay on enforcing the order pending a federal court decision on the executive order’s constitutionality, which could take years to decide.
“Even if you are not from one of those seven countries – if you’re from presumably a predominantly Muslim country and you were to leave tomorrow, we don’t know that some sort of new ban may be in place,” he said. “There was significant talk early on when they came up with the seven countries about adding more countries.”
And there was enough confusion when the order was put into action that some permanent residents were sent back or held for long periods of time.
“The order itself indicated that permanent residents should be included,” Jones said. “DHS (Department of Homeland Security) read it a different way and they were basically screening permanent residents as they came back in. … By that time, several injunctions had been issued by different courts.”
Hours after Jones spoke, federal agents with Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) began a crackdown and round-up of undocumented immigrations in areas of Los Angeles, New York, San Antonio and Chicago under an operation ICE is calling “Cross Check.”
Jones said just the order, even though it’s not in effect, has prompted a wave of reaction he described as “a panic” and “confusion.”
“Quite frankly, I had more calls from non-Muslims. They were just scared,” Jones said. “The ban just basically made people wonder what is next.”
President Donald Trump has tweeted several times since Thursday’s 9th Circuit ruling that his administration will appeal. But he has also said he could draft a new, more specific order along the lines of what Jones suggested.
On the CBS program “Face The Nation” Sunday, Stephen Miller, a senior adviser to Trump on immigration issues, emphasized the possibility of a new travel ban order.
“Our opponents, the media and the whole world will soon see as we begin to take further actions, that the powers of the president to protect our country are very substantial and will not be questioned,” Miller said. “The bottom line is that we are pursuing every single possible action to keep our country safe from terrorism.”
The status of immigration law was one of the topics at a Saturday town hall meeting at East High School by U.S. Rep. Steve Cohen that drew several hundred people.
Memphis attorney Brian Faughnan of the American Civil Liberties Union said the travel ban could also be challenged on the grounds that countries where Trump has private business interests were not included.
Of the ICE raids at week’s end, he said, “I suspect that’s going to lead to more litigation. People are going to have to persevere and be vigilant.”
Cohen said he considered legislation that would have added Saudi Arabia to the travel ban before the appeals court ruling.
“Why make a bad bill worse?” he said of his decision not to do that. “The (federal) judges in our country are lifetime appointees. That’s why what we saw this week shows the rule of law still survives in this country because we have judges that are able to make rulings that aren’t political.”
Miller took a different view on the Sunday morning TV news shows.
“We have a judiciary that has taken far too much power and become in many cases a supreme branch of government,” Miller said on “Face The Nation.”
Jones said there are other options using existing rules.
“It’s also possible they could put in new procedures,” Jones said. “One of the reasons they had for creating the ban in the first place was to create new extreme vetting protocols. It may be that they force those through more quickly.”
And that, according to Jones, is what may bear just as much watching if not more than any new order Trump might sign.
“It’s the direction they’ve gotten from their bosses on how to handle the process,” he said of those carrying out existing policies.
He cites a post 9-11 terrorist attack “special registration” provision that also targeted predominantly Muslim countries. It allowed immigration officials to closely question those entering the country on where they would be at all times and taking credit card information to track their whereabouts.
“That rule is actually still in place today,” Jones said. “But it is discretionary based on what the officer at the port of entry thinks about any given individual.”
Jones is among immigration attorneys who had plenty of experience with a record number of deportations during the administration of Trump’s predecessor, Barack Obama – 1.5 million in his first term of office and more than 2 million from 2010-2014 – the most recent numbers available from the Department of Homeland Security.
He said the Labor Department under Obama was particularly aggressive.