"Sessions’ unilateral decision will undoubtedly result in significant numbers of bona fide refugees being returned to the hands of their persecutors. This is yet another barrier conjured by the Trump Administration to impede due process and access to our asylum system." -- Dree Collopy
Dree Collopy, an attorney based in Northern Virginia, said one of her clients—an Ethiopian woman—recently got an expedited asylum interview because her family members back in Ethiopia were in danger. After the interview, though, nine months passed without them getting word on whether the woman would get asylum. “Instead of issuing a decision, they scheduled her for a second interview,” Collopy said. The woman recently went in for Interview Number Two. They still haven’t heard whether she’ll get asylum.
Today, the backlogged immigration system makes applying for political asylum or other forms of permanent legal status far more difficult. Obtaining citizenship can be impossible. "That process is over a decade long. It can cost thousands of dollars. It's not realistic," said Ava Benach, an immigration lawyer in the D.C. area.
Obama’s ICE often used immigration audits to disrupt and humiliate large restaurants and inspire compliance, Ava Benach said — such as an audit of Clyde’s of Gallery Place in 2013, in which more than 100 employees were deemed unauthorized to work in the United States. But she, too, suspected the audits had taken on another purpose under Trump. “I think it’s part of the effort to make immigrants feel insecure in places where, through inertia, they felt secure,” Benach said.
Deportation relief is not equivalent to legal status, notes Dree Collopy, an immigration lawyer in Washington, D.C. But enforcement action against them was largely avoided under the Obama administration.
“I think it has a particular impact on asylum-seekers, because the sense of being in limbo really seems to prolong their trauma and their sense of statelessness that they have,” said Dree Collopy, an immigration lawyer in Washington, D.C. And hearing delays can affect asylum-seekers’ credibility, as well as evidence to support their cases: “Over time, especially when trauma is involved, memories begin to fade.” If a person can’t testify until years after entering the United States, “that can obviously cause problems.”
"We are advising our clients from those seven countries who have green cards or any type of H-1B visa not to travel outside the U.S." said Ava Benach, a partner at immigration law firm Benach Collopy LLP, while noting that the order takes effect immediately.
“No one is really sure whether a green card holder from these seven countries can return to the US now. It’s fairly clear that an H-1B visa holder can’t," Benach said. The H-1B lets US companies employ graduate-level workers from other countries in technical occupations such as technology, engineering and science. “If anyone in these situations has the misfortune to have gone abroad recently, it’s a treacherous moment, possibly for green card holders too," Benach said.