As you know, on Friday, January 27, 2017, President Trump issued an Executive Order (EO) suspending entry into the United States of aliens from Iraq, Syria, Iran, Libya, Somalia, Sudan and Yemen. The suspension will be in place for 90 days and applies to both immigrants and nonimmigrants. Specifically excluded from the EO are foreign nationals traveling on diplomatic visas, North Atlantic Treaty Organization visas, C-2 visas for travel to the United Nations, and G-1, G-2, G-3 and G-4 visas. The EO also grants authority to the Secretaries of State and Homeland Security to continue issuing visas and other immigration benefits to nationals of otherwise blocked countries, if doing so is deemed to be in the national interest. Such determinations will be made on a case-by-case basis.
The situation is very fluid and rife with confusion. There have been widespread reports of nonimmigrant visa holders and lawful permanent residents or “green card” holders being detained upon arrival to the United States over the weekend.
Late Sunday, January 29, 2017, Secretary John Kelly issued a statement deeming the entry of lawful permanent residents to be in the national interest. According to the statement, “absent the receipt of significant derogatory information indicating a serious threat to public safety and welfare, lawful permanent resident status will be dispositive factor in [the government’s] case-by-case determinations”.
While Secretary Kelly’s comments suggest that lawful permanent residents may be granted entry to the United States during the 90-day suspension period, green card holders from the listed countries should expect a high degree of scrutiny when arriving in the United States.
In the short-term, we recommend that our clients communicate with their employee populations immediately to identify individuals who are from these countries and who may be traveling to and from the United States. Developing an escalation protocol to support impacted employees, and communicating that protocol to your larger employee population may help to allay fears during this period of uncertainty. From both a tactical and public relations perspective this will communicate the appropriate sensitivity, awareness and support.