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Suzanne Tomatore volunteering at JFK

The City Bar Justice Center Responds to the Immigration Executive Orders

by Danny Alicea February 3, 2017

On January 25 and 27, 2017, President Trump signed a series of Executive Orders relating to refugees, immigration, and national security. The result has been a massive and immediate disruption to our immigration status quo. One of the most controversial components of the orders was an outright ban on entry to the United States of nationals from seven different countries: Iran, Iraq, Libya, Somalia, Sudan, Syria, and Yemen. The ban covers individuals entering the United States on temporary visas (including work visas) and also, initially, included lawful permanent residents (green card holders) who are nationals of those countries. Emblematic of the chaotic rollout of the changes, Customs and Border Protection (CBP) subsequently clarified that green card holders are not covered by the ban. In addition, CBP softened its stance on dual nationals. A related directive from the Executive Orders is a suspension of the United States’ refugee resettlement program.

Just days after the Executive Orders were signed, the City Bar Justice Center (CBJC) joined the efforts of volunteer attorneys who rushed to JFK International Airport. Our staff attorneys worked to advocate for the release of detained immigrants, in conjunction with volunteer attorneys from dozens of private law firms and non-profits. At JFK, attorneys drafted habeas corpus petitions and temporary restraining orders to prevent detained individuals from being deported. They also canvassed airport terminals for families of travelers affected by the ban, which included travelers from countries other than the named seven who are facing increased scrutiny by immigration authorities. Several families were reunited as a result of these advocacy efforts at the airport.

The Executive Orders also expanded enforcement priorities, exponentially increasing the number of individuals who will be prioritized for detention and removal.  As part of our longstanding collaboration with the American Immigration Lawyers Association, we hosted a large scale immigration clinic in the Bronx on January 30, 2017.  As a result of the Executive Orders that had been signed just days prior, over 90 families attended seeking immigration advice.  While our trained immigration volunteers fielded questions about a variety of issues, the great majority of attendees had specific questions about the effects of the Executive Orders— evidencing the immediate chilling effect of these changes.  We are planning several other immigration clinics and expect that they will all be heavily attended.

Immigration clinic held on January 30, 2017
Immigration clinic held on January 30, 2017

Because the Executive Orders are overly broad, and in anticipation of other orders in the pipeline, CBJC’s Immigrant Justice Project will continue to monitor these updates so that we can continue to help our clients and mentor our volunteers.  In response to an increasing demand for information and advice, CBJC is scheduling several Know Your Rights trainings and immigration forums for community groups and schools.  In addition, our immigration experts discussed the Executive Orders in a podcast available on the New York City Bar website.

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