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Welcome back to our weekly immigration news segment Immigration Revelation! This week in U.S. Immigration News, the White House announces a Travel Ban on foreign nationals from entering the United States who have travelled to China within 14 days of their proposed entry to the U.S., and the Department of Homeland Security announces a suspension of Global Entry Enrollment in New York in a row over federal immigration enforcement.

Coronavirus Travel Ban

In a Proclamation dated January 31st 2020, the White House – in accordance with the Center for Disease Control & Prevention (CDC) – introduced a Travel Ban on foreign nationals from entering the United States who have traveled to China within 14 days of their proposed entry to the U.S. Restrictions have also been applied to U.S. citizens and legal permanent residents who have traveled to the Chinese city of Wuhan, the epicenter of the Coronavirus, within 14 days of their return to the U.S. Such individuals will be placed in a mandatory quarantine for up to 2 weeks following their re-entry.

The “Coronavirus Travel Ban” took effect as of 5pm on Sunday, February 2nd 2020, with the Department of State publishing the ruling to the Travel section of their site the following day. President Donald Trump is cited with stating “the potential for widespread transmission of the virus by infected individuals seeking to enter the United States threatens the security of our transportation system & infrastructure and the national security” within the Proclamation.

The Proclamation did include several limitations and exceptions to the Travel Ban. Those who are immediate family members of a U.S citizen or legal permanent resident (spouse, parent, child or sibling), those who are government officials for a foreign nation, and members of airline cabin crews are exempt from the Ban. This has drawn criticism from those who oppose it claiming the rules unfairly discriminate against immigrants, particularly those from Asia.

With the World Health Organization (WHO) declaring the Coronavirus a Global Health Emergency on January 30th 2020, it is unsurprising that the U.S. Government has taken immediate steps to combat the global spread of the disease. However, the severity of their actions has drawn criticism from state and non-state actors. The Director General of WHO, Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus, stated on Tuesday that bans and restrictions would simply serve the purpose of “increasing fear and stigma” of the virus, creating “little public health benefits”. The day prior, the Chinese Ministry of Foreign Affairs stated that the U.S. has “inappropriately overreacted” and “has not provided any substantive assistance” to help contain the Coronavirus outbreak.

Nancy Messonnier, the Director of the CDC’s National Center for Immunization and Respiratory Diseases, defended the actions of the U.S. government, stating that the U.S. would “rather be remembered for overreacting that underreacting”, and that we must be “proactive and aggressive” in the fight against the spread of the Coronavirus. Indeed, White House and CDC rulings came days after Delta, American Airlines, and United released their decisions to suspended flights from the U.S. to China and vice versa. Many believe the U.S. response is evidence-based, and proportionate.

What could cause serious debate is the implementation of the Coronavirus Travel Ban. The turnaround from the Proclamation to the Ban taking effect was 2 days. Given the scale of the Coronavirus outbreak, the U.S. needs to avoid the chaotic implementation of Ban procedures at all costs – particularly given the lack of advanced notice to state jurisdictions. Furthermore, tracking individuals around the World who have been present in China 14 days prior to their proposed entry to the United States will require a degree of coordination with foreign governments. The U.S. does not have a Customs & Border Patrol official present at every airport that flies into the U.S. The hastily implemented Ban could leave States scrambling to implement the White House’s ruling.

White House ICEing Global Entry Enrollment in New York

The Department of Homeland Security (DHS) on Thursday January 6th 2020 announced that it would be temporarily suspending New Yorkers access to enrolling in Global Entry, a program which allows travelers to speed through border and airport security lines. This is an escalation in a conflict between the Trump Administration and New York State over New York’s so-called “Green Light Law” – a law that allows undocumented immigrants to obtain a driver’s license.

New York is one of 13 states – including Illinois – that allows undocumented immigrants to obtain a driver’s license provided they 1) demonstrate that they reside within the state and 2) pass a driving test. Like other sanctuary or welcome states, New York’s “Green Light Law” also prohibits the Department of Motor Vehicles from sharing information with Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) or Customs and Border Protection (CBP) without either agency first obtaining a warrant. As the facts and data have repeatedly shown, sanctuary cities keep communities safer.

In a letter dated February 5th 2020, Chad Wolf – Acting Secretary for DHS – stated that New York state’s “Green Light Law” hinders “DHS’s effort in keeping our Nation secure”, and due to the “lack of security cooperation” between New York’s DMV and DHS, actions must be taken with immediate effect to protect the “Homeland” 

The Trump Administration has long taken aim at “Sanctuary Cities”, something which Trump’s State of the Union address on February 4th 2020 hinted at, but New York has been a particular sore spot. Rich Azzopardi, a senior adviser to New York Governor Andrew Cuomo, believes that the DHS policy is nothing more than political retaliation and that the state will be exploring its legal options against the DHS decision.

New York may not be the only state to receive such backlash from DHS. Ken Cuccinelli, acting director of the USCIS, stated that the Administration could go after other states that seek to limit federal agencies access to state databases.

Expect to hear more of this in the next few months as the Trump Administration ramps up its campaign for reelection in the 2020 Presidential Election. In the meantime, watch this space for the lawsuits that are sure to follow.

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