Updated: Federal Court Blocks Refugee “Travel Ban 4.0”

“Travel Ban 4.0”, described more fully in this post, applies to refugees only, indefinitely suspending the ability of refugees already in the U.S. to bring over their “follow-to-join” spouses and under 21 year old, unmarried children who are still abroad, and temporarily suspended refugee processing of any refugees from eleven countries, including Egypt, Iran, Iraq, Libya, Mali, North Korea, Somalia, South Sudan, Sudan, Syria, and Yemen.  (Update:  On January 29, 2018, the government announced that it is no longer suspending refugee processing from the eleven countries listed earlier,  but will subject them to intensified scrutiny – this, notwithstanding that refugees have long endured more scrutiny than any other category of immigrant to the U.S., going through identity, background, and other verifications that typically take 18 to 24 months.)

On December 23, 2017, a Federal District Court in Washington State issued a nationwide injunction blocking enforcement of Travel Ban 4.0 against follow-to-join relatives.  (The court also blocked enforcement of the ban against any persons from the eleven designated countries who have a bona fide relationship with a person or entity in the U.S., as defined previously by the Supreme Court, but that is now likely moot following the government’s January 29, 2018 decision mentioned above.)

On December 27, 2017, the government challenged the District Court’s injunction against implementation of the Travel Ban 4.0 against refugees who have received assurances from refugee resettlement agencies.

Bottom line:    Under the Federal Court’s ruling the government should continue to process  visa applications for follow-to-join relatives of refugees already resettled in the U.S. while this litigation continues.

NOTE:          As a practical matter, the government has put a stranglehold on refugee processing irrespective of any court decisions. Fewer than a third as many refugees were admitted in the first quarter of FY 2018 as compared to the prior three fiscal years as explained in this Wall Street Journal article.     Refugee resettlement agencies across the country are cutting staff because not only is this fiscal year’s 45,000 cap on refugee admissions the lowest number since 1980, but also at the rate refugees are actually being allowed in, barely half that number might actually arrive.  UPDATE:  In Maine, as of March 21, 2018, only 30 refugees had arrived for resettlement (compared to several hundred at the same time in 2016).

How does this affect Maine’s businesses?

  • If you have refugee employees, be aware of their stress due to the uncertainty of whether this court decision will hold, and their worries about when their spouses and children, whom they may have been expecting to immigrate soon, will be able to reunite with them here in the U.S.
  • Maine has resettled hundreds of refugees annually for decades.   Refugees from four of the eleven targeted countries – Somalis, Iraqis, Syrians and Sudanese – have been long been the majority of those resettled here each year. They become integral members of our communities, working, volunteering, and spending their earnings locally.   With Maine’s historically low unemployment rate and shrinking labor pool, we need workers. Refugees already were subject to more strenuous vetting than any other category of immigrant. Choking off this regular source of new immigrants to Maine will hurt Maine’s economy.