In last week’s blog we addressed the short term implication’s of the President’s new executive order on both refugees and residents here and abroad. Today, the executive Order would have officially taken. Hours before its initiation, Federal judges halted the new executive order saying it was targeted to exclude one religion and group of people. This blog explores the potential long term implications of the President’s Executive Order if legal stays are overturned.
Long Term Implications
New Uniform Screening Standards: A Threat to USRAP?
The new order calls for “uniform screening and vetting standards for all immigration programs” including establishing a “baseline” for vetting procedures. The suggested procedures outlined as a basis for the “new program” resemble the screening process that already exists for refugees seeking admission to the United States.
However, when combined with the directive to determine and implement “what additional procedures should be used to ensure that individuals seeking admission as refugees do not pose a threat to the security and welfare of the United States,” the directive for additional screening procedures may set an unachievable standard for refugee applicants, effectively ending the resettlement program even after the 120-day suspension of the USRAP (United States Refugee Admissions Program) expires.
Additionally, the Administration could try to justify a longer “pause” if the Secretary of State, Secretary of Homeland Security, and Director of National Intelligence determine that the additional procedures are not “adequate to ensure the security and welfare of the United States,” or that such procedures cannot be established.
A Fractionalized Refugee System
The new order also grants a role to states and local jurisdictions “in the process of determining the placement or settlement in their jurisdictions of aliens eligible to be admitted to the United States as refugees.” This provision appeals to the argument that states should be able to have greater control over who is settled within their borders, but that, ironically, conflicts with the longstanding precedent that the federal government, and particularly the executive branch, have primary discretion over immigration policy in the United States. This precedent was one of the Trump Administration’s primary justifications for the broad policies implemented in the original executive order.
It is important to note that providing states with more discretion on refugee resettlement may have a negative impact on ensuring national security. Currently, the information used to inform admission and resettlement decisions is centralized within the federal government. Representatives from each of the United States’ domestic resettlement agencies jointly determine where incoming refugees will be placed, and that information is sent to the central Refugee Data Center in New York. Then, domestic resettlement agencies with offices in different states oversee the physical resettlement process for refugees approved to come to the United States. If states are granted more control, that information may need to be at least partially decentralized, providing more opportunities for mistakes or missed red flags in the screening process.
Although the new executive order has clearly gone through more legal vetting to try to ensure its constitutionality than the original order, the coming weeks are likely to bring court challenges and questions from resettlement agencies, refugees, and other travelers with connections to the affected countries. It also establishes many projects for development, such as the new screening procedures and the processes by which states can be more involved in the selection and resettlement process, but provides few specifics. As these procedures are developed, more questions are likely to arise. It is important for all refugees, advocates, and travelers who may be affected by the order to stay informed of its provisions and further developments related to the procedures it outlines.