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District Judge Blocks Refugee Order from Trump Travel Ban

— December 29, 2017

On Saturday afternoon, a U.S. district judge issued a preliminary injunction which would place limits on the Trump administration’s ability to enforce part of its latest travel ban.

U.S. District Judge James Robart moved to block a portion of the order, which limits immigration from 11 countries – most of which are Muslim-majority.

While allowing most of the executive order to remain intact, Robart instructed the federal government not to “divert resources” from refugee applications brought forward by the relatives of migrants now residing in the United States. But, as notes, Robart’s injunction offers little relief for those lacking “bona fide” relationships to individuals or entities on American soil.

Robart, a George W. Bush-era appointee, said the executive order was an over-reach of presidential authority.

“Congress set forth the specific statutory elements that individuals must satisfy to be admitted as a refugee,” Robart wrote in a 65-page order. “Congress also specified criteria as to who would be excluded from the definition […] By either prohibiting refugees from [the selected] countries from participating in [the U.S. Refugee Admissions Program] or by grafting on the additional requirement that refugees from [those] countries must also ‘fulfill critical foreign policy interests’ to qualify, the agencies impermissibly redefine the term ‘refugee.'”

Image courtesy of AP

And, according to Robart, President Trump should have sought public input before proposing changes to the United States’ existing system of refugee admissions.

While the administration has declined to publish the list of nations it now restricts, Politico says experts have a rough idea. Among the inclusions are likely Egypt, Iran, Iraq, Libya, Mali, North Korea, Somalia, South Sudan, Sudan, Syria and Yemen.

All of the countries on the list, with the exceptions of South Sudan and North Korea, are Muslim-majority. Like Trump’s past attempts to restrict the flow of Muslim refugees into the United States, the list attracted the ire of scholars and immigration advocates.

South Sudan and North Korea can be considered token pieces meant to dissuade critics from alleging an Islamophobic bias. Neither country sends particularly many migrants to the United States – Pyongyang has policies which prevent its citizens from traveling overseas, unless they’re conducting official, state-sanctioned business.

Government lawyers admitted that embassy officials overseas had stopped processing “so-called follow-to-join” refugee applications. Robart’s injunction would compel visa officers to handle such proceedings normally.

A spokesperson for the Justice Department voiced their disappointment with the ruling, saying, “We disagree with the Court’s ruling and are currently evaluating the next steps.”

Robart’s decision is likely to chafe the Trump administration – this isn’t the first time the Seattle-based judge has stymied the president’s efforts to curb legal immigration into the United States. In February, the commander-in-chief referred to Robart as a “so-called judge,” following a nationwide injunction against Trump’s original travel ban.


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