When President Donald Trump issued his executive order on immigration last week, it was the travel ban on seven Muslim-majority countries that dominated headlines—leaving hundreds of people in limbo, provoking airport protests, and raising questions about whether the U.S. was targeting religion in the guise of a new security rule.
But immigration lawyers who have read the order carefully are now increasingly concerned that one of its provisions could have much wider repercussions, affecting literally every foreign visitor to America, from tourists to diplomats.
The little-noticed section, appearing immediately after the travel ban, calls for the government to develop a “uniform screening standard and procedure” for all individuals seeking to enter the United States. As written, it appears to require all visitors to go through the same vetting measures, regardless of where they come from or how long they intend to stay.
If interpreted as broadly as it’s written, “It would basically shut down tourism,” said Stephen Legomsky, the former chief counsel for U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services during the Obama administration.
Trump’s executive order, issued last Friday, has already been criticized as hastily drafted and confusing, and the White House has already loosened up one portion of it, allowing green card holders currently overseas to re-enter the U.S.
But little attention has focused on section four, which directs federal officials to implement a “uniform screening standard and procedure” as part of the “adjudication process for immigration benefits” for all individuals seeking to enter the United States. In immigration parlance, “immigration benefits” refers to any permission granted a foreign visitor, from full-scale refugee resettlement to a passport stamp for tourists visiting Disneyland. That wording is about as broad as it can get, lawyers said, and if taken literally would include every single foreigner coming to the United States. “[It] is basically everything,” said Dan Stein, the president of the Federation for American Immigration Reform (FAIR), a group that supports reducing immigration levels.
“What they are talking about doing has scared the shit out of my members, about the lack of guidance and lack of clarity,” said Ben Johnson, the head of the American Immigration Lawyers Association.
Hat tip to our 2016 field Coordinator, Arthur Congo for highlighting this story.
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