WASHINGTON (AP) — Donald Trump says he will send Syrian refugees home if he's elected president, but U.S. laws would interfere with his plans.
"I'm putting the people on notice that are coming here from Syria as part of this mass migration. If I win, they're going back," the billionaire businessman promised during a campaign stop in Keene, New Hampshire, this week. "They're going back. I'm telling you. They're going back."
There's at least one thing that would stand in his way: immigration laws.
Refugees are awarded legal immigration status as soon as they arrive and granted work permits shortly thereafter. Within one year, they are eligible and must apply to become a legal permanent resident.
To send them home, Trump's administration would have to strip the refugees of the legal status that allowed them to travel to the U.S. That would require either a change in the conditions in Syria or evidence that immigrants weren't actually qualified to be refugees in the first place. Even then, under federal regulations, any refugee would be allowed to protest such efforts in a process that could take at least one month.
The Obama administration said it intends to accept about 10,000 Syrian refugees and increase the overall number of refugees allowed into the country from around the world to 85,000 in the next 12 months. That total would increase to 100,000 by 2017. Currently the U.S. accepts up to 70,000 refugees per year.
An immigration lawyer, David Leopold of Cleveland, said Trump's effort to return refugees would be difficult to apply to anyone who became a legal permanent resident.
In that case, the fastest way to get someone out of the country would be a traditional deportation case, which generally happens only when a legal permanent resident commits a serious crime.
"There are procedures and regulations which govern what happens if the country conditions change and the person is not a permanent resident," Leopold said. "You can't just (send them home). It just doesn't work that way. We have regulations and we have statutes that govern how we treat refugees in the United States."
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