On June 29, 8 PM EST, President Trump’s new visa criteria for the long-touted travel ban came into effect. The new set of instructions was issued to all U.S. embassies, which will affect travelers from Yemen, Iran, Libya, Somalia, Sudan and Syria. It will also affect all refugees.
The travel ban this time has been modified, after all the criticism the Trump administration received for the original stricter travel ban. Still targeted are all U.S. visa applicants (travelers and refugees) from the aforementioned Muslim countries.
What’s Covered By The Modified Travel Ban?
Last week, the Supreme Court issued a ruling, stating that U.S. visa applicants who cannot establish a veritable relationship claim with an entity or person in the country may be denied entry.
Those U.S. visa applicants from the six Muslim countries must prove that they have a personal relationship with immediate relatives who are already in the United States.
The court specified who are the only allowed relations. These include parents, spouses, children, adult daughters or sons, daughters-in-law, sons-in-law or siblings. Fiancés and grandparents are not included in the list of bona fide relations.
Likewise omitted from the list are grandchildren, cousins, nephews, nieces, uncles, aunts, sisters-in-law and brothers-in-law. Documented and formal evidence must be presented by persons trying to prove their relationship with an educational institution or a business.
Before the new travel ban took effect on June 29, the State Department clarified that fiancés/fiancées of U.S. citizens will be allowed to travel.
Greatly affected by the new travel ban are the future immigrants from the six affected countries who won a visa in the diversity lottery of the U.S. government. They are now required to prove that they have a bona fide relationship with a person already in the U.S. Otherwise they have to find a waiver, where they will be eligible to enter the U.S. or they will be banned from traveling for a minimum of 90 days.
This will prove difficult for these types of immigrants because most of those who won a visa through lottery do not have relatives in the country. They also do not have jobs waiting for them.
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Criteria For Refugees
Most of the new travel ban criteria that affects legitimate travelers from the six nations are to be applied to refugees as well. However, their travel restriction is for at least 120 days.
But what’s different is that the relationship of a refugee with their resettlement agency has been deemed not enough to establish that the relationship is authentic, according to a senior administration official.
So how can a refugee prove a bona fide relationship? This is something that advocates pointed out earlier. They stated that many refugees coming to the U.S. do not have close relatives in the country. The only relationship they can claim is with the resettlement agencies that are not even government agencies.
Previous Visa Approvals
According to government officials, they will not revoke previously approved visas. Moreover, refugees who are already scheduled to travel to the United States until July 6 will be allowed to enter the country.
Government officials also added that they are encouraging U.S. visa applicants from the affected countries who already have appointments for visa interview to keep to their schedule. Immigration agents would decide on their eligibility on a case-to-case basis.
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It’s inevitable that the travel ban guidelines will elicit mixed reactions from the different sectors. Amnesty International USA‘s Naureen Shah, the Senior Director of campaigns, said that the criteria exhibits a cruel indifference to families, particularly to the refugees who already experience different levels of violence aside from their families getting separated by war. The legal director of the National Immigration Law Center expressed the same sentiments.
Officials from the administration said that the decision was according to the definition of family as stated in the Immigration and Nationality Act. But Mark Wasef, a Senior Attorney, clarified that the structure of families in the Middle East differs from the structure of U.S. families.
He is from the International Refugee Assistance Project. He added that, in the Middle East, some children are raised by uncles or aunts, or even by the grandparents. But the travel ban states that even if the child is already in the U.S., he or she cannot bring the person/s who raised him/her for the next 90 days.
Members of church organizations that also help refugees questioned the issue of bona fide close relationship. They claim that they have a closer relationship to a refugee than a student or an employee would have with an educational institution or a company.
What Happens Next?
Hearing for the arguments on the travel ban will be in October. In the meantime, the revised travel ban will be enforced until the Supreme Court releases a final ruling. While the travel ban is in place, the Trump administration announced that it would review the screening process for U.S. visa applicants from the six affected nations.
It is hoped that there won’t be over-zealous immigration, customs and border patrol officers who may go overboard in the interpretation of the new travel directive. Several sectors are affected by the travel ban and it is expected that there will be a slew of protest activities from them. All we can do is watch this space for now.