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Tags: immigration law | trump | travel ban | green card

Realities of Immigration Law, Procedures Lost in Media Fog

Realities of Immigration Law, Procedures Lost in Media Fog

People protest a recent executive order by President Donald Trump at Los Angeles International Airport, California on February 4, 2017. (Kyle Grillot/AFP/Getty Images)

By    |   Friday, 10 February 2017 04:39 PM EST

I’ve been involved in immigration for a long time. I’m married to a naturalized American citizen, who I sponsored for her immigrant visa, based on our marriage, nearly 30 years ago. I have hundreds of friends who are foreigners who immigrated to America. I’ve worked in many capacities with foreigners who wanted to immigrate to the USA, or who were in the USA for work, travel, or study. I’ve lived and worked as a foreigner in other countries — in Asia, Europe, the Middle East and Africa, and have been on the other end of the foreigner equation. My first profession, after the military, was refugee services. I worked with refugees settling in America and in refugee camps in foreign countries. I’m a proud graduate of the U.S. State Department’s Basic Consular Course, and have conducted interviews and screened candidates for both immigrant and non-immigrant visas. That course was an in-depth exploration and application of the relevant U.S. Code — 1101, the Immigration and Nationality Act — the law.

President Trump’s recent tightening of screening of nationals from war-torn countries caused the politically correct Progressives, and their Neoconservative, Never-Trump allies, to respond with attempts to confuse the issue. Their non-stop ranting and marching in the streets and airports is like a bank of fog rolling in to obscure the issue, like the fog of war.

Everyone thinks they see something in this fog, but are not sure what it is. Even so, the Progs and Neocons continuously babble about the visions they see in the fog. Trump-haters scream their outrage, and parade sad stories of children separated from parents, or professors unable to return to their needy classes. Silicon Valley titans rage about Trump’s inhumanity and racism — or something. Neocon Never-Trumpers furiously crank out op-eds about the danger to intelligence collection posed by Trump’s immigration order.

First, it’s important to understand that immigration laws, by definition, have serious effects on the lives of those involved. Foreigners from all over the world are literally dying to come to America. They will lie, cheat, steal, kill, beg, borrow, sell, or do whatever it takes to set foot on American soil — legally or illegally. The USA, and pretty much every country in the world, has a system that regulates the movement of people across borders, for business, pleasure, and for immigration. Enforcing those laws, by denying entry to some applicants, and granting permission to enter to other applicants, has deep and long-lasting effects on those applicants’ lives. Entering the USA can open a world of opportunity unavailable in their home countries. Being denied entry to the USA can restrict their opportunities.

But the exact same argument can be made for the effects of enforcing virtually any law. Denying me entry to Harvard as an undergraduate applicant restricted my future and destroyed my dreams of Ivy League glory. Bank of America’s refusal to allow me free access to their vaults is severely restricting my ability to enjoy the fruits of their labor. The Pope’s refusal to allow me inside the Vatican’s wall is very upsetting to my plan to live in palatial splendor.

Negative effects of enforcing laws, including immigration laws, are very different from negative effects of denying civil rights. Entering a foreign country is not a civil right. I do not have the right to enter Mexico, or Canada, or New Zealand, or Iran, or Israel, or Gabon whenever I feel like it. My compelling personal story, replete with suffering, crying women and doe-eyed children does not give me to the right to enter those countries. When I want to enter those countries, I have to follow their immigration laws, procedures and regulations. Their decision on my application will have a profound effect on my life. But that effect on my life does not govern their decision.

The misunderstanding of the apparent unfairness of applying immigration laws to a specific country, or set of countries is another casualty of the fog of war. American immigration decisions are made constantly on the basis of country of origin. Consular officials are aware that nationals of certain countries are more likely to violate the conditions of their visas. Those applicants are denied visas at rates that far exceed other countries. Some of these “discriminatory” lists are official, others are common sense. But a couple of key points to remember are: the executive branch has nearly unlimited discretion in enforcing immigration laws; and the president is the chief executive.

An issue that is very much lost in the fog is just what a “visa” is, and what “rights” a foreigner has when issued a visa. There are two Executive Branch agencies involved in issuing visas and allowing foreigners to enter the USA. (Of course this describes the official, legal route. The illegal route is to cross the Rio Grande.) A Consular official at an American diplomatic post (Embassy or Consulate, usually part of the Department of State) in a foreign country interviews citizens of foreign countries who want to visit or immigrate to the USA. The Consular official, as an Executive Branch employee, is a direct representative of the president. Based on this interview, the Consular official makes a decision on the application — to grant or to deny a visa. The Consular official is the judge, jury, defense counsel, prosecuting attorney, appellate judge, and Supreme Court. Their decision is based on the Immigration and Nationality Act (INA) (8 USC 1101). They cite specific paragraphs from the Act when denying a visa. Their decision is final, and not subject to appeal. Applicants have no constitutional rights — they are “aliens,” non-citizens. When the Consular official approves a visa, the applicant’s passport is stamped with the visa details, and the name is entered into a database. 

So, maybe the most misunderstood issue of all in the recent debate is: What is a visa? To clarify, a visa is simply permission to appear at an American border control entry point to request permission to enter the USA. A visa does not confer any rights to a foreigner, whatsoever. A “valid visa” simply means that the holder of that visa may board transportation from a foreign country bound for the USA, land on American soil, and request permission to enter the USA. Visas are either non-immigrant, or immigrant.

At the border control point, the applicant for entry now faces the second Executive Branch agency: the United States Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS, part of the Department of Homeland Security) officer. This officer, again as an Executive Branch employee, is a direct representative of the president, and has near absolute power over the decision to grant entry to the USA. The USCIS officer can interview, request documentation, examine, detain, and otherwise process the applicant, as he sees fit. Applicants have no constitutional rights — they are “aliens,” non-citizens. The USCIS officer can make the decision to deny entry to any alien, regardless of their holding a “valid visa,” or any other document. This is an Executive Branch decision, made by a representative of the president. When entry is denied, the applicant is usually expelled from the U.S. by the same route they entered.

Another point that is clearly misunderstood is the “rights” of a “green card” holder. A “green card holder” is the common term for what is officially known as a “Permanent Resident Alien” (PRA) of the United States. A PRA may work and live in the USA, and may be granted the opportunity to become a citizen of our country. A green card, however, is not citizenship, and does not afford the alien the rights of a U.S. citizen. Common misunderstandings of our immigration law, and previous Executive administration’s refusal to enforce the law, do not make it go away. Lawful Permanent Residents (LPRs) who leave the USA are subject to the exact same USCIS screening at the border control points as any alien — tourist, business, or immigrant visa holders. A PRA still holds the passport of their country of origin — they are still a citizen of a foreign country. They are still an alien for the purposes of U.S. immigration law.

A common misuse of LPA status, in the past, has been for the alien to maintain their original nationality, and passport for an indefinite time, even after they qualify for U.S. citizenship. This practice allows a certain ease of travel — especially to their home country. As a U.S. citizen, some nationalities may have to request a visa or other processing. By holding their original citizenship, and a U.S. green card, the alien got the best of both worlds. Freedom to work in the USA, and to travel the world in their original citizenship. The Immigration and Nationality Act views the green card holders the same as any other alien. When they appear at a border to request entry, their visa can be denied, revoked, modified, or otherwise dealt with. The PRA, at a border control point, has no special rights over other aliens. They have no rights as a U.S. citizen — they are not US citizens.

Much of the recent uproar over the tightening of immigration enforcement involved immigration lawyers and families of aliens creating scenes at border control points — mostly international airports on American soil. Many of the aliens detained and/or denied entry to the USA were green card holders, returning to the USA from foreign countries. They learned a lesson in living in a country where the Executive Branch upholds the laws. A “Permanent Resident Alien” means just what it says — Permanent Resident. Permanent means forever. When a PRA leaves the USA, they are de facto, not a Permanent Resident — they have shown, by leaving, that they were only temporarily in the USA. The USCIS officer who interviews the PRA, upon returning to a border control post on U.S. soil, can make the determination, based on an interview or other guidance, that the PRA is not eligible to enter the USA. Usually, when this determination is made, the applicant’s PRA status is revoked, and they are deported like any other alien denied entry to the USA.

Kent Clizbe is a former CIA ops officer, and expert in counter-terrorism and Islamic extremism, credibility assessment, and fraud detection. He is an historian of anti-American espionage operations, and author of "Willing Accomplices: How KGB Covert Influence Ops Created Political Correctness." His website is KentClizbe.com. Read more of his reports — Go Here Now.

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President Trump’s recent tightening of screening of nationals from war-torn countries caused the politically correct Progressives, and their Neoconservative, Never-Trump allies, to respond with attempts to confuse the issue.
immigration law, trump, travel ban, green card
Friday, 10 February 2017 04:39 PM
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