THE ARMENIAN RIGHTS WATCH COMMITTEE (ARWC) OF THE ARMENIAN BAR ASSOCIATION FINDS THE EXECUTIVE ORDER ISSUED ON JANUARY 27, 2017 MAY THREATEN ESTABLISHED UNITED STATES LAW AND INTERNATIONAL LEGAL OBLIGATIONS
The United States government is obligated—under both US. Law and international law—to allow for the application of the asylum claims by non-citizens presenting themselves at U.S. borders and ports of entry.
The Immigration and Nationality Act provides, in no uncertain terms, that “[a]ny alien who is physically present in the United States or who arrives in the United States. . . irrespective of such alien’s status, may apply for asylum.” Under U.S. statutory law as well as human rights conventions, the U.S. may not return (“refoul”) a non-citizen to a country where she may face torture or persecution. See 8 US.C. § 1231(b); United Nations Convention Against Torture (“CAT”), implemented in the Foreign Affairs Reform and Restructuring Act of 1998 (“FARRA”).
Consistent with these statutory and international law obligations, individuals arriving at U.S. ports of entry must be afforded an opportunity to apply for asylum or other forms of humanitarian protection—and be promptly received and processed by United States authorities. Procedural due process requires that the government be constrained before it acts in a way that deprives individuals of liberty interests protected under the Due Process Clause of the Fifth Amendment.
After careful review, the ARWC fears that the Executive Order issued on January 27, 2017 (the “EO”) may threaten procedural due process rights guaranteed by the Fourteenth Amendment by denying persons presenting at U.S. borders and ports of entry the opportunity to apply for asylum. The ARWC is also concerned that there may not be sufficient justification for the country of origin distinctions announced in the EO. To be clear, two troubling public declarations concerning the EO raise particular alarm as to its intended purpose: the first, by President Trump, who in a recent interview with the Christian Broadcasting Network indicated a “preference to prioritize Christians” and, the second, by Mr. Rudy Giuliani, who in an interview with Fox Network revealed that Mr. Trump had first referred to what eventually became the EO as a “Muslim Ban” and asked Mr. Giuliani to devise a legal framework for it—which Mr. Giuliani later did, basing it on “danger” instead of religion.
The ARWC has been monitoring closely, with grave concern, developments following the issuance of the EO. To be clear, our interest is not to issue any opinion in support of, or against, a particular political agenda. However, as lawyers, we strive to ensure that the rule of law is upheld, that due process is afforded consistent with legal requirements and that government action reflects firm adherence to constitutional principles. The EO, we are concerned, raises substantive apprehension as to these legal issues.
Accordingly, the Armenian Bar Association has mobilized a task force ready to actively address matters involving any deprivation of rights resulting from enforcement of the EO. To that end, we are co-hosting to a town hall meeting at 8pm on February 9, 2017, at 2242 E. Foothill Blvd. in Pasadena, California in collaboration with the Armenian National Committee of America, Western Region (ANCA-WR), the Armenian Youth Federation (AYF), the ARF Shant Chapter, the Armenian Law Students Association (ALSA), and the Syrian Armenian Relief (SARF). We have also invited the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) to join us. Of course, we welcome the participation of other stakeholders to discuss these matters clearly impacting the discourse of human and civil rights in this country.
Armenian Rights Watch Committee—ARWC
Los Angeles, California
February 1, 2017