Trump expected to order temporary ban on refugees

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By Julia Edwards Ainsley | WASHINGTON

WASHINGTON U.S. President Donald Trump is
expected to sign executive orders starting on Wednesday that
include a temporary ban on most refugees and a suspension of
visas for citizens of Syria and six other Middle Eastern and
African countries, say congressional aides and immigration
experts briefed on the matter.

Trump, who tweeted that a “big day” was planned on national
security on Wednesday, is expected to ban for several months the
entry of refugees into the United States, except for religious
minorities escaping persecution, until more aggressive vetting
is in place.

Another order will block visas being issued to anyone from
Syria, Iraq, Iran, Libya, Somalia, Sudan and Yemen, said the
aides and experts, who asked not to be identified.

In his tweet late on Tuesday, Trump said: “Big day planned
on NATIONAL SECURITY tomorrow. Among many other things, we will
build the wall!”

The border security measures probably include directing the
construction of a border wall with Mexico and other actions to
cut the number of illegal immigrants living in the United
States.

The sources say the first of the orders will be signed on
Wednesday. With Trump considering measures to tighten border
security, he could turn his attention to the refugee issue later
this week.

Stephen Legomsky, who was chief counsel at U.S. Citizenship
and Immigration Services in the Obama administration, said the
president had the authority to limit refugee admissions and the
issuance of visas to specific countries if the administration
determined it was in the public’s interest.

“From a legal standpoint, it would be exactly within his
legal rights,” said Legomsky, a professor at Washington
University School of Law in St. Louis. “But from a policy
standpoint, it would be terrible idea because there is such an
urgent humanitarian need right now for refugees.”

The Republican president, who took office last Friday, was
expected to sign the first of the orders at the Department of
Homeland Security, whose responsibilities include immigration
and border security.

On the campaign trail, Trump initially proposed a temporary
ban on Muslims entering the United States, which he said would
protect Americans from jihadist attacks.

Both Trump and his nominee for attorney general, Senator
Jeff Sessions, have since said they would focus the restrictions
on countries whose migrants could pose a threat, rather than a
ban on those of a specific religion.

Many Trump supporters decried former President Barack
Obama’s decision to increase the number of Syrian refugees
admitted to the United States over fears that those fleeing the
country’s civil war would carry out attacks.

LEGAL CHALLENGES POSSIBLE

Detractors could launch legal challenges if all the
countries subject to the ban are Muslim-majority nations, said
immigration expert Hiroshi Motomura at UCLA School of Law.

Legal arguments could claim the executive orders
discriminate against a particular religion, which would be
unconstitutional, he said.

“His comments during the campaign and a number of people on
his team focused very much on religion as the target,” Motomura
said.

To block entry from the designated countries, Trump is
likely to tell the State Department to stop issuing visas to
people from those nations, according to sources familiar with
the visa process. He could also instruct U.S. Customs and Border
Protection to stop any current visa holders from those countries
from entering the United States.

White House spokesman Sean Spicer said on Tuesday the State
and Homeland Security Departments would work on the vetting
process once Trump’s nominee to head the State Department, Rex
Tillerson, is installed.

Other measures may include directing all agencies to finish
work on a biometric identification system for non-citizens
entering and exiting the United States and a crackdown on
immigrants fraudulently receiving government benefits, according
to the congressional aides and immigration experts.

To restrict illegal immigration, Trump has promised to build
a wall on the U.S.-Mexico border and to deport illegal migrants
living inside the United States.

Trump is also expected to take part in a ceremony installing
his new secretary of homeland security, retired Marine General
John Kelly, on Wednesday.

AUSTRALIA DEAL UNDER THREAT

Trump’s executive order threatens a refugee resettlement
deal with Australia signed late last year, and could leave more
than 1,000 asylum seekers in limbo.

The U.S. agreed to resettle an unspecified number of
refugees being held in Papua New Guinea (PNG) and the tiny South
Pacific island nation of Nauru on Australia’s behalf, under a
deal to be administered by the U.N. refugee agency.

“Any substantial delay in the relocation of refugees…would
be highly concerning from a humanitarian perspective,” Catherine
Stubberfield, a spokeswoman of the U.N. High Commissioner for
Refugees, told Reuters by email.

“These men, women and children can no longer afford to
wait.”

The deal followed agreement by Australia in September to
join a U.S.-led programme to resettle refugees from Guatemala,
Honduras and El Salvador as part of its annual intake.

Australia’s tough border security laws mandate that asylum
seekers intercepted trying to reach the country by boat go for
processing to detention camps on PNG’s Manus island and Nauru.

Australia does not provide information on the nationalities
of those held, but around a third of the 1,161 detainees were
from countries covered by the executive orders, lawyers and
refugee workers for the asylum seekers told Reuters.

“We already didn’t have much hope the U.S. would accept us,”
Behrouz Boochani, an Iranian refugee who has spent more than
three years on Manus island, told Reuters.

“If they do not take us, Australia will have to.”

A spokeswoman for Australia’s Prime Minister Malcolm
Turnbull declined to comment. (Additional reporting by Mica Rosenberg; Additional reporting
by Colin Packham in Sydney)



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