Post updated below with comments from Washington state Attorney General Bob Ferguson
President Trump has reportedly signed a new executive order on immigration today, after his first attempt to pause U.S. entry of refugees and foreign nationals from seven predominantly Muslim countries was twice defeated by federal courts.
The new order temporarily blocks citizens of Syria, Iran, Somalia, Sudan, Libya, and Yemen from entering the country. However, this new version does not include Iraq on the list of banned nations, will make exemptions for visa-holders, and no longer seeks to automatically reject applications for visas from Syrian refugees. The new order is coming amid widespread legal battles over Trump’s initial attempt to pause immigration and study potential threats of terrorism.
The new order will take effect March 16, Trump Counselor Kellyanne Conway told Fox News Monday. The timing represents a departure from the first order, which took effect immediately.
Foreshadowing possible legal challenges to the new order, Attorney General Jeff Sessions said at a press conference on the travel ban Monday that the Justice Department believes the order is within the president’s authority and will defend it against any lawsuits.
UPDATE: In a news conference Monday, Washington state Attorney General Bob Ferguson said his team is reviewing the new travel ban, and he plans to decide whether he will mount a legal challenge later this week.
Ferguson said Trump “capitulated” to his lawsuit challenging the original order by removing key provisions like the ban on green card and visa holders. He said he was happy to see some of these changes, he doesn’t see much change in the motivation behind the order.
“The concern that we laid out in our original filing about the intent behind that original executive order, religiously-motivated, targeting Muslim countries, that concern remains.”
A few days after the original executive order was signed, Ferguson filed a lawsuit claiming the travel ban was unconstitutional. As part of the suit, Ferguson asked for a Temporary Restraining Order (TRO) to immediately halt the implementation of Trump’s travel ban until it could be litigated in court.
Federal Judge James Robart granted the TRO in a district court in Seattle. The Department of Justice appealed but a panel of judges from the Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals in San Francisco decided unanimously to uphold Robart’s decision.
In a press release, Ferguson called Trump’s decision to replace the controversial travel ban with a new executive order an admission that “the federal government recognizes the obvious — the President’s current Executive Order violates the Constitution.”
New York Attorney General Eric Schneiderman signaled his willingness to challenge this new order in court less than an hour after it was signed.
— Eric Bradner (@ericbradner) March 6, 2017
Immigration is a critical issue to the technology community, which is fueled by a diverse workforce, international recruiting, and foreign-born entrepreneurs. Amazon and Expedia immediately filed formal declarations of support for Ferguson’s lawsuit and more than 100 additional companies signed an amicus brief backing Washington state.
The briefs claimed Washington’s technology industry immediately suffered under the travel ban, as employees were stranded overseas and international recruiting efforts were hindered. Trump’s revised executive order may allay some of those concerns, as employees using work visas and green card should not be affected.
Tech companies are feeling the impact of the Trump administration’s immigration policies in other ways. U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services on Friday temporarily suspended the “premium processing” option for H-1B visas, a program used frequently by tech companies to bring software engineers and other highly-skilled workers to the U.S. That means tech companies that use the program extensively, including Microsoft, Google, Amazon and Apple, will no longer have the option of 15-day expedited visa processing for an extra $1,225 fee and instead will have to wait several months for the outcome of visa applications.
President Trump has been reported to be considering larger restrictions on the H-1B program, to address concerns that the program is taking jobs away from domestic tech workers.