• By: Edmond Remie Gray

President Trump Executive Order on Immigration, What does it Mean for Liberians

Circle Pines – The recent executive order that could temporarily shut down travel from major-Muslim countries is causing a lot of distress for many Americans and other foreign nationals with ties to the United States.

Many Liberians just may not be aware of what this order means for them. With general and presidential elections pending in Liberia, many of us would like to fly in and out of Liberia with the hope of participating in the October 2017 elections.

Without a doubt, a number of immigration attorneys and advocacy groups are by now inundated with calls and concerns from up to legal residents in the United States. Most callers may like to know whether it is safe to travel abroad. This order is not about people seeking legal entry into the United States, but those residing here legally with foreign attachments elsewhere.

Our legal and political correspondents have been digging for answers. To sum it up, it is simply not advisable to travel now. On January 27, 2017, the President of the United States, Donald J. Trump issued the following decree:

Per the Executive Order on Protecting the Nation from Terrorist Attacks by Foreign Nationals signed on January 27, 2017, visa issuance to nationals of the countries of Iraq, Iran, Libya, Somalia, Sudan, Syria and Yemen has been suspended effective immediately until further notification. If you are a citizen of one of these countries, please do not schedule a visa appointment or pay any visa fees at this time. If you already have an appointment scheduled, please DO NOT ATTEND. You will not be permitted entry to the Embassy/Consulate. We will announce any other changes affecting travelers to the United States as soon as that information is available."

While Liberia is not one of the seven nations shortlisted for visa travel ban, a coalition of U.S. Attorneys is simply advising foreign residents, to include Green Card Holders to stay put, till the order is challenged and fully clarified. Our Legal Correspondent spoke with with Nermeen Arastu, a clinical law professor at the City University of New York School of Law, who categorically advised, “if you are not a U.S. Citizen, don’t leave right now.”

For those Liberians who adjusted their asylum status to legal permanent residents, going back to a country where you once claimed is an endangerment to your life, could constitute ground for termination of your permanent residency in the United States. One closed White House aide confirmed that there are laws on the books that prohibit asylum beneficiaries who are now Green Card holders from returning to country of persecution.

For instance, earlier today, many Iraqi refugees in Cairo, who had been cleared for resettlement in the U.S., were blocked from boarding their flight to New York City. And in Iraq, an international correspondent of NPR, Jane Arraf reported that "members of Yazidi minority, one of the biggest victims of ISIS, were prevented from boarding despite having visas."

Green card holders — legal permanent residents of the U.S. — are also included in the ban, according to a senior Trump administration official. The official says they will need a case-by-case waiver in order to return to the U.S. if they are currently outside the country.

One vocal critic of the Trump-Anti-Muslim euphoria, Hassan Shibly, executive director of Council on American-Islamic Relations’ Florida chapter, said a source in the federal government advised him to tell people that non-citizens who are natives of black listed countries not to leave the U.S. for the time being, even if they hold green cards.

“We definitely need people to take caution at this point,” Shibly said. “With Trump, you cannot take any risks. You cannot take any principle of liberty or justice for granted. We cannot let our guard down.”

However, a coalition of attorney generals from sixteen U.S. States and experts said they have spent recent days trying to challenge the Executive Order on grounds that it violates several provisions of the U.S. Constitution.

Even former President Barrack Obama has chimed in the debate criticizing his successor’s immigration and travel ban issued on Friday, saying through a spokesperson that he is “heartened by the level of engagement” over the weekend in confrontation to the action.

“With regard to comparisons to President Obama’s foreign policy decisions, as put forth by the Trump White House, Obama fundamentally disagrees with the notion of discriminating against individuals because of their faith or religion,” the Obama spokesperson Lewis added.

Trump has argued that his new policy is "similar to what President Obama did in 2011 when he banned visas for refugees from Iraq for six months." However, as the Washington Post points out, that was in response to a specific threat after Iraqi refugees had been found to be colluding against U.S. troops. However, the refugee process was slowed, not halted.

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