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Executive Orders on Immigration, Refugees and Sanctuary Cities

Executive Orders on Immigration, Refugees and Sanctuary Cities

By Shani Adess
January 27, 2017

At Safe Horizon’s Immigration Law Project, we are alarmed at the numerous executive orders that were issued this past week, which serve to undermine safety, roll back protections for those who are most vulnerable and in need of assistance, and have an undercurrent of “otherizing” and “demonizing” people based on where they come from, what they believe in, and how they identify.

The orders included directives to temporarily stop all refugee resettlement to the United States, during the largest refugee and internally displaced persons crisis in world history, stop resettlement of all Syrian refugees indefinitely, and redirect future refugee resettlement priorities to prioritize people fleeing religious persecution from countries where they are in the religious minorities.  At the same time, the orders inhibit anyone from Yemen, Libya, Somalia, Iraq, Iran, Syria or Sudan (all countries where Islam is the majority religion) for 30 days from entering the United States, regardless of whether they have valid visas or temporary immigrant or nonimmigrant status.

The prior executive orders, issued earlier in the week, direct an increase immigration enforcement activities, build a wall at our border, and to withdraw federal funds, and enable legal action to be taken against Sanctuary Cities for allowing their local law enforcement to focus on enforcing local criminal law, rather than acting as federal immigration agents.

These orders have already bred chaos, tragedy, and despair. Safe Horizon is working on the ground with other legal service providers, in airports and within the community, to provide immigration advice and legal advocacy for persons and families affected by these inhumane and unconstitutional orders.

How These Executive Orders Affect Immigrant Communities

These executive orders undermine the fundamental values that have made America a beacon of hope for so many within our own communities, and across the world. The vast breadth of immigration enforcement activities contemplated by these executive orders fails to take into account the family ties and contributions to community someone may have, or the vulnerabilities and well-founded fear that an asylum seeker or person seeking humanitarian relief may have when appearing at our border. They weaken our own communities, by making people afraid to engage with systems and agencies, to report crimes, to seek help, health care, education, or protection when necessary.

It is contrary to law, and contrary to the central principles of human rights and a just society, to single out certain groups based on their race, national origin, religious beliefs, sexual and gender identity, as being less entitled to protection under our laws. We are grateful for New York City, State and local officials’ commitment to recognizing this fact. And for reaffirming their commitment to have New York City remain a Sanctuary City. Numerous officials have spoken out to reiterate that they believe, as does Safe Horizon, that our diversity, inclusiveness, and movement towards becoming a more free, fair, and just society, is what makes our country, our city, and our communities so great.

How These Executive Orders Impact our Immigration Law Project

Safe Horizon Immigration Law Project is committed to continuing our decades of legal representation on behalf of immigrants in New York City. We provide free and low cost legal services to victims and family members of victims of domestic violence, sexual and gender-based violence, child abuse, torture, persecution, or other crimes, regardless of a person’s immigration status. We will continue to advocate to ensure that all people are able to seek assistance and protection when they need it, and that someone who has suffered a crime or trauma is not further victimized or at risk of being deported and/or separated from their children solely because of their immigration status.

Safe Horizon stands with all immigrants, all survivors of violence, and all people who have been marginalized. Please stand with us, as we advocate and make clear: you cannot serve just some of us, you cannot protect just some of us, all humans are equal, and all humans deserve to live a life free from violence and fear.  No human is illegal.

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  • Shani Adess

    Shani Adess Esq. is the Senior Supervising Attorney at our Immigration Law Project (ILP). Prior to joining Safe Horizon, Shani was a supervising attorney at the New York Legal Assistance Group where she represented survivors of domestic violence in family and immigration law matters, and an advocacy and communications officer at Jesuit Refugee Services, working in the Southern African region. Shani brings her extensive knowledge and experience providing direct legal services for survivors of sexual and gender based violence, and navigating complex immigration law cases, to her current position at ILP.