On the evening of April 22, 2020, President Trump finally issued the Immigration Executive Order that, based on his tweet a couple of nights before, we all knew was coming.
In light of the attack from the Invisible Enemy, as well as the need to protect the jobs of our GREAT American Citizens, I will be signing an Executive Order to temporarily suspend immigration into the United States!
— Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) April 21, 2020
The President hopes that the order will help Americans get back to work by reducing the competition for new or replacement jobs. Given the dire straits of the US economy, and the dramatic number of Americans that have become unemployed almost overnight, the pool of jobs that “Americans will not do” has, at least in theory, dried up.
The US has been suffering an official Coronavirus National Emergency since March 1, 2020. The US economy has tanked, largely due to the level of social distancing required to fight the virus’s spread. Over 20 million Americans have now lost their jobs, and this number continues to climb.
Officially titled “Proclamation Suspending Entry of Immigrants Who Present Risk to US Labor Market During the Economic Recovery Following the COVID-19 Outbreak”, it contains many exceptions. So many, in fact, that it is not clear that it will accomplish its dual purpose of protecting US workers, especially historically disadvantaged groups, and re-focusing manpower at US Embassies and Consulates abroad in order to better help displaced Americans.
The Proclamation deems allowing entry of certain immigrants to be detrimental to the United States. New immigrant visa holders will not be allowed entry after April 23 and for at least the next 60 days.
The justification for this lies in the fact that, upon entry, immigrant visa holders become lawful permanent residents and can take virtually any open job – jobs that President Trump believes should be reserved for unemployed Americans. Further, allowing more people into the US may cause additional strain on our healthcare resources; we need to prioritize caring for Americans and the existing immigrant population.
There are exceptions for allowing entry of:
- people who have already been issued their immigrant visas but have not yet traveled to the US;
- doctors, nurses, other healthcare professionals and researchers, and their spouses and children;
- EB-5 investor visa holders;
- spouses and children (under 21) of US Citizens;
- IR-4 or IH-4 adoptees;
- members of the US Armed Forces and their spouses and children.
Some of these exceptions are self-serving, such as allowing in health care professionals who could save American lives, and some are compassionate, such as exempting spouses and children of US Citizens.
The Proclamation does not impact applicants for adjustment of status, the process by which people inside the US become lawful permanent residents, or people who are already lawful permanent residents.
Curiously, non-immigrant work visa holders are also not impacted — perhaps because their employers will still need to show that there are not enough Americans to fill any open positions? The Proclamation does, however, direct the Departments of Homeland Security and Labor to review non-immigrant worker regulations to determine if additional measures are needed to prioritize American workers. Thus, it won’t be surprising if non-immigrant visa holders are impacted later in the summer.
While the Administration may alter or “flesh out” this new Order in the coming days to address issues that inevitably arise during implementation, as of now, workers, family members of lawful permanent residents, adult children and siblings of US Citizens and parents of US Citizens cannot enter on new immigrant visas after April 23. It is currently unclear if fiancés of US Citizens (K-1 visa holders) are also barred.
How much does this really change the current state of things? New visas have not been issued since mid-March anyway – there have been no visa interviews at US Embassies abroad (a necessary step of the immigrant visa process). I-130 and I-129f petitions already approved by USCIS are stuck at the National Visa Center (NVC) awaiting an interview date. Further, there has been little slowdown in USCIS’s processing and approval of newly filed I-130 and I-129f petitions (and perhaps even a bit of improvement). And we continue to submit documents to the NVC as soon as possible in order to grab our spot in the ever-expanding interview line.
So this new rule will really only have an impact if US Embassies start conducting interviews again before June 23, 2020. Stay tuned.