Wednesday, January 25, 2017, will go down as a dark day for our country. It is the day that religious minorities were singled out, that we turned our backs on people who need us the most, that you are guilty until proven innocent, and when the show became more important than substance. There will be a lot to digest over the next few days and weeks, but here are some initial thoughts.

The two January 25th memos are available here:

Enhancing Public Safety in the Interior of the United States

Border Security and Immigration Enforcement Improvements

A third memo, the one freezing refugee admittance, is expected to be issued on January 27th, but a copy is already available.

Enforcement Priorities: Gone are the days of smart enforcement. Everyone who has an order of removal (no matter the equities in place – Your US citizen mother has leukemia, who cares! You’re a single mom with two US citizen kids at home – who cares! Your husband is in the military – who cares!), is now subject to immediate detention and removal. If you are on an order of supervision, make sure your next visit have you going with an attorney – you’ll need to file for a stay of removal or a motion to reopen. According to local immigration attorneys who interacted with ICE today, the only reason ICE wasn’t arresting everyone today at their reporting was because “there aren’t enough handcuffs.”

The executive order states that any immigrant who has been charged with a criminal offense – and that does mean traffic offenses in Georgia the way our Code is written – will be arrested and put into deportation proceedings. What happened to innocent until proven guilty?

Also targeted – those who have made any misrepresentations to any government official. This means if you claimed to be a US citizen or permanent resident on your I-9 or to get a driver’s license, you are an enforcement priority.

Refugees: Not welcome here. The January 27th memo will suspend the U.S. Refugee Admissions Program for four months. It will be up to the President to determine if 120 days is sufficient for certain safeguards to be in place (we’ve talked before how refugees are THE MOST VETTED group of individuals who enter the United States). All Syrian refugee processing will stop indefinitely.  We will cut the total number of refugees that the US takes in per year from 100,000 to 50,000.

Banning Entire Countries: Individuals from Iraq, Iran, Libya, Syria, Sudan, and Yemen will be barred from entering the United States for at least 30 days. It doesn’t matter if you have a Nobel Peace Prize, you will be turned away from our borders.  This ban can be extended and expanded.

DACA: No plans to scrap DACA for now, but there is a prepared memo discussing the program’s end. Again, this is not official nor is it confirmed that DACA will disappear. If you have DACA and it expires within the next six months, I strongly encourage you to file for renewal immediately.

Travel: For anyone currently in the United States – no matter how secure you feel in your status, I encourage you not to leave. The situation is changing by the moment and being outside of the US at the wrong time could cost you your ability to return. I don’t want to sound alarmist, but this is an unconventional president who is disrupting the lives of thousands, if not millions.

In Summary…
While a lot remains to be seen – such as how President Trump’s executive orders will be executed – we know that the new policies will have a chilling effect for certain immigrants right away. We also don’t know how President Trump will pay for many of the ideas espoused in his executive orders, but there are some things that don’t require funding – at least not immediately.

Can he do this? For the most part, yes. The wording of these orders is vague and we’ll have to wait to see how these plans are implemented in order to litigate. However, in the meantime, while we all sort out what this means, lives will be destroyed, families will be torn apart, and it’s the Wild West in the world of U.S. immigration.