By Heather Brown

MINNEAPOLIS (WCCO) — President Donald Trump’s Jan. 27 executive order  differentiates between refugees and people with visas. There was even some confusion over the weekend about its impact on green card holders.

There are a number of ways for people from other countries to come to the U.S. So, how do they differ? Good Question.

“I’ve been trying to figure it out for 20 years,” says Virgil Wiebe, a professor of immigration law at the University of St. Thomas. “Some days I think I’ve got my head wrapped around it and other days it can bewildering.”

When teaching his students, Wiebe uses a hotel analogy to explain the U.S. immigration system.

The top floor of the hotel would be the citizens – whether by birth or naturalized – who own their condos.

One level below would be the long-term rental apartments where the people with green cards would live.

“It’s like having a lease,” he says. “You have to abide by certain rules or you might lose that green card.”

Getting a green card can take between one and 20 years. Often times people get them through employment, family relationship or diversity visas.  In 2015, the U.S. gave out just over 1 million.

“Below that floor is a floor I like to call the floor of protection, or the sanctuary,” he says. “This is a floor for people who are refugees or asylees. These are people who have been persecuted or fear persecution.”

Each year, the president decides how many people will be allowed refugee or asylum status. In 2015, the U.S. accepted 70,000 refugees and granted asylum to 25,000 people.

Another floor down would be the hotel rooms – or the shorts stays – for people with visas. In the U.S., there are almost 20 different types of visas. They range from tourist to business to students to fiancé to extraordinarily talented athletes or performers.

On this floor would also be visitors from 38 friendly countries that are part of the Visa Waiver Program. These people, from areas that have little visa fraud, only need to show a passport for a 90-day tourist or business stay. One exception to this program would be citizens of those countries who have recently traveled back and forth to Somalia, Iran, Iraq, Libya, Sudan, Syria or Yemen. They would be required to apply for a visa.

At the bottom floor is the lobby, where Wiebe says people hang out because they can’t be checked into the hotel right away. He uses the example of “Dreamers” as the main population spending time in the lobby. These are the almost 2 million immigrants in the U.S. who might be eligible for “deferred action” for unauthorized youth brought to this country as children.

Finally, Wiebe says the basement of the hotel would house most of the undocumented immigrants and the sub-basement would be people who have been detained.

Heather Brown


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