We planned to write a blog about the revised travel ban Executive Order as soon as it came out.
That the revised order was delayed for several weeks until March 6 highlights the uncertainty we face in 2017. Below we try to answer various questions we regularly receive about immigration issues. Is domestic airplane travel OK? This may sound like a simple question, but recent events suggest more caution may be wise. For example, Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) agents recently met a plane landing at JFK Airport in New York City, and asked everyone about their immigration status. The agents were looking for someone who had an old deportation order, but it is possible that anyone without evidence of status could have faced delays. This is a good time to remind ourselves that the law requires anyone who is not a U.S. citizen to carry evidence of status at all times (green card, Employment Authorization Document (EAD), Form I-94 or electronic I-94 printout, valid, unexpired nonimmigrant DHS admission or parole stamp in a foreign passport, etc.). Try to make it easy for a government officer. Isn’t that overreacting based on one incident? Maybe, but the bigger picture is that immigration enforcement agents have more discretion and wider operating room than before. Two memos issued by the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) on February 20 allow for “expedited removal,” which is a fast track process that skips a hearing with an immigration judge. Expedited removal now can apply to anyone who entered the country within the past 2 years (used to be 2 weeks), and anywhere in the United States (used to be within 100 miles of the border). Expedited removal happens quickly, sometimes within a matter of days. Having a copy of a document showing status and that you have been in the United States more than two years could help avoid questioning and expedited removal.
How about electronic devices? Can those be searched at the airport
The simple answer is “yes,” and this is happening more often. Immigration Attorneys Chula Vista recommend that private information, such as a doctor with patient information, should be encrypted. According to the Customs and Border Protection (CBP) website, CBP officers may search laptops, cell phones, or other electronic devices. CBP may not select someone for a personal search or secondary inspection based on religion, race, national origin, gender, ethnicity, or political beliefs. U.S. citizens may also be questioned and have their devices seized for refusal to provide passwords or unlock devices, but cannot be prevented from entering the United States. Noncitizens may, however, be denied entry. Adding to the uncertainty about how this will play out is a section in one of the January Executive Orders that directs federal government agencies to make sure they “exclude persons who are not United States citizens or lawful permanent residents” from Privacy Act protections concerning personal information. What does this mean for people from the six countries covered by the new travel ban? Will the court battle still continue? The new order clarifies that green card holders and Iraqis are NOT affected by the visa ban, and that people who had visas revoked or cancelled by the first order may be able to get a travel letter to return. The new order takes effect March 16, 2017, and lasts for 90 days. People with valid visas stamps in their passports can still use them, but new visa stamps will not be issued with very limited discretionary exceptions.
The Visa Interview Waiver program is suspended for all countries, and the order states that DHS may add countries to the list after further review. People who are citizens of the six countries can still face additional questioning when they enter the United States as part of a general pattern of enhanced vetting. Travel for citizens of the six countries remains a calculated risk.