An analysis of the Supreme Court ruling of June 26, 2017
An analysis of the Supreme Court ruling of June 26, 2017
Catholic Family Center
Greetings Friends of Refugee Resettlement,

Newsletter #13
In today’s newsletter we focus on how the Supreme Court ruling handed down on Monday, June 26, and the Department of State’s subsequent interpretation of the ruling will impact the national refugee program and refugee arrivals expected here in Rochester. 

What the Supreme Court said in its Ruling
First, the Supreme Court decided it will hear the cases that the government brought to override the injunctions placed on the administration’s Executive Order 13780 (EO 13780) by lower federal courts, that is, the 90-day ban that denies entry to the United States for certain nationals from six Muslim-majority countries, the 120-day ban that denies entry for refugees, and the reduction in refugee admissions for FY 2017 to 50,000. The Supreme Court consolidated the cases together and will hear them in October 2017. 

Second, the Court decided that between now and when the case is heard that EO 13780 will continue to be halted but only in part. Immigrants and non-immigrants from the six Muslim-majority countries and refugees will continue to be able to come to the United States, as long as they have a “bona fide" relationship with a person or entity in the United States. However, someone without any such relationship would be at least temporarily banned from entering the United States.  

Third, the court directed that if the number of refugees with such bona fide relationships leads the annual refugee admission number to exceed 50,000 refugees for FY 2017, that such additional refugees shall still be allowed to enter.

How Will the Court Ruling Impact the Refugee Program
The answer to this question lies in how the Department of State is interpreting the ruling and directing its consulates and CBP agents at airports to allow or prohibit entry. Today we learned that the State Department has defined a bona fide relationship in a narrow way limited only to parents, parents-in-law, spouses, children, adult sons or daughters, sons-in-law, daughters-in-law, siblings or half sibling, or a “step” version of any of those relationships (stepparent, stepchild, etc.). Other relationships will not count as bona fide, including grandparents and grandchildren, fiancés, aunts, uncles, nieces, nephews, and cousins. Furthermore, the State Department has indicated that they will not view resettlement agencies as being a qualified “entity”. Again, the Department of State is taking a narrow view of the Court’s instructions in making this distinction.
What Happens Now, and Specifically in Rochester?
  • Refugees that have already been issued visas and are scheduled to arrive between now and July 6th should be unaffected (allowed to enter).  
  • After July 7th and through the 120 day halt period ending 10/27/2017 only those refugees that have a documented relationship with a qualifying relative (as listed above) will be allowed entry.
  • Since the majority of refugee cases we resettle in Rochester are non-U.S. ties cases, we project to resettle only a few cases per month over the 120 day halt. We are working with our national partners to gain a better sense about cases in our pipeline that would be considered allowable and likely to arrive over the next four months and will convey better projection numbers when we have them.
  • Refugee overseas processing will be severely curtailed for the next 4 months as the administration works on their review of the vetting process. This will critically hamper efforts to place vulnerable refugees in a position to enter the US Refugee Program once the 120 day halt has run its course, and predicts very low arrival numbers for at least the first half of the next fiscal year.
  • Unaccompanied Refugee Minor (URM) children destined for foster care placements in the U.S. will not be granted a blanket waiver that would allow them to be admitted over the 120 day halt period. 
  • SIV cases should be unaffected by the executive orders and so should continue to arrive in small numbers (one or two cases per month).
  • Cubans entering our resettlement program are also unaffected by the executive orders although we do project these numbers to dwindle over the remainder of the year.
What Happens Next?
All manner of new litigation will likely take place, and refugee advocates will definitely continue efforts to broaden opportunities for the most vulnerable of refugees to gain safe haven in the U.S. Since the Court did not limit the scope of a bona fide relationship, the Department of State’s narrow definition of such is likely to be challenged. This could result in further clarification from the Supreme Court (in recess over the summer but there are still mechanisms to gain this sort of clarification) or lower courts offering individual rulings that could run contrary to one another. As the implementation of the executive orders under the Court limitations goes into effect at 8pm tonight, volunteer immigration lawyers around the country and from the NYIC are manning posts inside international airports in anticipation of persons in need of representation if they are unduly denied entry through the discretion that Customs and Border (CBP) agents may apply at ports of entry.

Our national partners are gearing up for additional advocacy, especially around the upcoming 2018 refugee program. While it is likely that the admission ceiling will be set at only 50,000 for FY 2018, advocates will be working to ensure that the refugee program is not further hobbled by lack of funding, lack of access, discriminatory measures or undue burdens on refugee applicants. More on that in our upcoming newsletters as we work to plan our own local efforts aligned with our partners.

As always, thanks for your continued support.
In gratitude,
Jim Morris
Vice President, Family Services

Lisa Hoyt
Director, Refugee, Immigration and Employment Services
Catholic Family Center
A regional agency of Catholic Charities of the Diocese of Rochester
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