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Lawyer Says Immigration Executive Order Caught Many By Surprise


Let's ask an immigration lawyer about President Trump's executive order on all refugees as well as visitors from seven Middle Eastern nations. They have been temporarily, the order says, banned from entering the United States. William Stock is the president of the American Immigration Lawyers Association whose members have been very busy at airports across the United States. He's on the line from Virginia. Welcome to the program, sir.

WILLIAM STOCK: Good morning, Steve.

INSKEEP: Do you understand as this has evolved who is getting to come in, people from the seven countries and refugees, who actually gets to enter in spite of the order?

STOCK: We've certainly seen that on a case-by-case basis people with humanitarian issues were able to come in. Many green card holders, people who've lived in the United States for a long time who have permanent resident status, were not allowed to board airplanes over the weekend. Eventually many of those were allowed to come into the United States. CBP unfortunately was really caught completely by surprise by this order, and really the biggest problems were that they didn't know how to implement it in the first two days.

INSKEEP: CBP, that's the Customs and Border Protection, the guys who have to actually do this.

STOCK: Exactly, the people at the airports.

INSKEEP: And you said green card holders on a case-by-case basis, does that mean that green card holders are still broadly banned from returning to the United States but they can ask and may be granted permission?

STOCK: Exactly. That's the way the order was originally interpreted. Secretary Kelly, head of the DHS, came out late last night and said that the possession of a green card should be considered a dispositive factor in a case-by-case basis, so ironically the government had to announce that on a case-by-case basis a broad category of people was subject to being admitted.

INSKEEP: OK, so I think what you're telling me then, Mr. Stock, is that the executive order has now been changed but in a way that they can say - the White House can say they didn't actually change the executive order.

STOCK: Certainly there is at least some guidance that's now being given to CBP officers around the country about exactly who their superiors say should be covered by the order.

INSKEEP: OK. I've heard a number of claims from people who feel that Customs and Border Protection is not following court orders to allow people in if they'd already reached the United States. Do you feel the government is obeying the various court orders on this at the moment?

STOCK: They are not. Our members have reported being asked to give access to people who were being detained for secondary inspection. I think people in America need to understand that they have no rights when it comes to CBP. CBP can search their phone, their luggage when they come in. And in spite of court orders, CBP said they were not going to let lawyers have access to these folks.

INSKEEP: There are court orders saying that you should be able to provide them with legal representation?

STOCK: Yes, there are two court orders, one in Boston, one in Dulles. The one in Dulles specifically requires allowing people to have access to lawyers so that they could understand what the rules were and how they might be able to claim one of these case by-case exceptions or asylum if they were afraid of being returned back home to wherever they had been coming from.

INSKEEP: One other question here about who gets in and who doesn't, it involves refugees. The refugees have been stopped, but we're told in the executive order there is an exception for persecuted religious minorities. The president has said he meant Christians in Syria, but there are religious minorities who are members of Muslim sects in all seven of these countries, and a great many of them can describe themselves as persecuted. Are they being allowed in so far as you know?

STOCK: My - the intelligence I have so far from our folks on the ground is that folks who arrive with refugee visas, people who'd already been approved by the U.N. and the U.S. authorities, were turned away, their visas were canceled. Many of them were told that they could come back, you know, within 90 days. They're going to have to go through new processing because CBP canceled their visa here in Philadelphia. We're actually going to be bringing a lawsuit on behalf of a Syrian family who had just that experience and has now been returned to Jordan.

INSKEEP: Just one other thing, Mr. Stock, about the constitutionality here. I know that immigration lawyers, the ACLU and others have said that this order is unconstitutional - a religious test which would be unconstitutional. Dan McLaughlin writes in The National Review over the weekend that whatever you think of a religious ban, whether you think this is a religious ban or not, quote, "foreigners have no right under our Constitution to demand entry to the United States or to challenge any reason we might have to refuse them entry, even blatant religious discrimination." Does the Constitution really apply to everyone here?

STOCK: Well, this is going to be a collision of two big constitutional principles. The first one is that generally speaking Congress is allowed to make the rules and the executive is allowed to execute it, but the other one is that the U.S. government cannot establish an official religion by saying that Muslims are out and Christians are in.

INSKEEP: OK. Well, Mr. Stock, thanks very much, really appreciate that.

STOCK: Thank you, Steve.

INSKEEP: William Stock, a busy man who leads a busy organization. He's president of the American Immigration Lawyers Association. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.

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