Professors Margaret Taylor and Helen Parsonage discuss President Trump’s immigration ban

Professor Margaret Taylor and Adjunct Professor Helen Parsonage, an immigration attorney in Winston-Salem, participated in the panel discussion, “The New Administration’s Refugee and Immigration Policy: What Does it Mean?,” on Friday, Feb. 3, in Wake Forest University’s Pugh Auditorium.

The discussion outlined the legal framework and local impact of President Trump’s executive order, “Protecting the Nation from Foreign Terrorist Entry into the United States,” while addressing safety concerns and outlining the way refugee and immigration integrations work in the United States.

Professor Taylor began the conversation by explaining the legal implications of the ban to the packed auditorium, which was filled with an audience of more than 300 students, faculty and community members.

Professor Taylor explained that no previous president had ever issued an exclusion order like this one, which was, in simplest terms, a blanket exclusion order, and revoking visas on a “case-by-case” basis suggested a preference for Christian refugees. “This language in the executive order coupled with (the attitude of the administration) can be read as an invitation to (U.S. Customs and Border Protection) CBP officers to ‘go rogue,’” Professor Taylor says.

Professor Parsonage explained before federal judges ruled on the ban and issued restraining orders, the executive orders blocked the return of both green card holders and permanent legal citizens visiting the seven countries listed.

“I have a number of clients in the United States who are Iraqi, Yemeni, who are separated from family members,” she said.

Professor Parsonage also emphasized that the ban, which resulted in a Center for Immigration Studies (CIS) hold on all pending applications for work permits, visas and naturalization applications for individuals from the seven countries listed in the order, has adversely impacted many of her clients who have followed all correct legal procedures in the immigration process and who are already in the United States with temporary work visas.

“If this ban stays in effect for any length of time, and their work permits expire, they lose their jobs, their license to drive expires,” she said. “They have children to feed. This is not just an inconvenience to a hundred people.”

On Feb. 3, U.S. District Judge James L. Robart issued a temporary restraining order which suspended enforcement of Donald Trump’s exclusion order; however, nearly 100,000 foreigners from Iran, Iraq, Syria, Sudan, Somalia, Libya and Yemen who their visas revoked, as reported by The Washington Post, will still be unable to freely travel, according to Sociology Professor Hana Brown.

Panelists noted that prior to this action, a lack of direction from the White House in regards to implementation led to chaos and confusion for both those attempting to enter the United States and Customs and Border Patrol agents alike. Demonstrations took place outside the White House and in airports across the country, and Professor Parsonage said that she was just one of multitudes of lawyers who sat on terminal floors for hours to aid those who had been detained.

She also explained that the feeling of vast uncertainty about the future still remains for many of her clients following the temporary suspension of the exclusion order. “This last week puts me in a position that as an attorney I am very uncomfortable with, (because) immigration attorneys are saying, ‘We have no idea,’” she said.

The other panelists, Politics Professor Hank Kennedy and Brown, argued that the countries targeted in the exclusion order are not a threat to U.S. interests and that the White House’s policies could damage American international relations.

“(American) ideology includes claims to being diverse and welcoming to immigrants,” Professor Kennedy said. “The world sees the United States withdrawing from its core values. What made the United States exceptional is now tarnished.”

There was a consensus of the panelists that the orders lacked strategy and had devastating effects. The ban also reduced by more than half the number of refugees who would be resettled in this fiscal year, and Professor Brown explained the effect on immigrants who have already been resettled: “When our immigration policies reflect the best values of our nation, when they welcome [immigrants] with open arms, [immigrants] are more likely to incorporate into American society and are more likely to become citizens.”

“The New Administration’s Refugee and Immigration Policy: What Does it Mean?” panel discussion was sponsored by the Wake Forest University programs in Middle East and South Asia Studies and American Ethnic Studies.