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What Will Be the Effects of the Executive Order Suspending Immigration to the U.S.?

Immigration law
By Maddy Teka, Esq. | Last updated on

President Trump has signed an executive order temporarily suspending certain immigrant visas as a measure to protect American jobs amid the COVID-19 pandemic. This order comes after a staggering 26 million people have already applied for unemployment benefits.

What Will Be the Effects of the Executive Order?

The order, which was issued April 22 and will be effective for 60 days, bans people seeking immigrant visas from entering the country. This order applies to people who:

  • Are currently outside the United States,
  • Don't have an immigrant visa, and
  • Don't have an official travel document other than a visa.

Some Groups Are Exempted From the Ban

The executive order does not apply to some groups seeking immigrant visas. These include:

  • Lawful permanent residents
  • Spouses and children of U.S. citizens
  • Health care professionals and their spouses who are coming into the U.S. to help fight the COVID-19 pandemic
  • Foreigners applying to come in with the EB-5 Immigrant Investor Program
  • Individuals whose entry would be in the national interest of the country
  • Members of the armed forced and their spouses and children

The Ban Does Not Apply to Those Seeking Non-Immigrant Visas

This temporary pause in immigration does not apply to those who are coming in with temporary visas. This includes those coming with temporary worker visas and tourist visas.

The order, however, requires the Secretaries of State, Labor, and Homeland Security to review these visas and recommend to the president, within 30 days, what measures should be taken to ensure “the prioritization, hiring and employment" of U.S. workers.

Does the President Have Authority to Issue This Proclamation?

The president probably has the authority to suspend immigration during a health emergency. The proclamation specifically states this authority is vested in the president pursuant to:

“The Constitution and the laws of the United States of America, including sections 212(f) and 215(a) of the Immigration and Nationality Act, 8 USC. 1182(f) and 1185(a), and section 301 of title 3, United States Code."

If this executive order is challenged in court, however, the president would have to show why allowing these immigrants would be detrimental to U.S. interests.

Other Actions Curtailing Immigration During COVID-19

The Trump administration's response to COVID-19 has included, among other things, a number of ways to curtail entry into the country.

These measures include:

  • Closing Field Offices in the Country: All in-person interviews at the United States Citizenship and Immigration Services have been suspended because of the pandemic. This means green card interviews, asylum interviews, biometric appointments, and naturalization ceremonies have been put on hold.
  • Stopping Nonessential Travel Along the Borders: The president has halted nonessential travel along the northern and southern borders. In addition, U.S. Customs and Border Protection will return undocumented immigrants to either Canada or Mexico, depending on where they entered.
  • Suspending Refugee Admission: The administration also halted refugee admissions temporarily. And migrants who are seeking protection at the border are being turned away to their home countries.
  • Suspending Flights From China and Some Parts of Europe: The president passed a series of proclamations banning foreigners from entering the U.S. if they came from certain countries affected by the pandemic. The suspension does not apply to American citizens, permanent residents, and their immediate families, although they are required to self-quarantine for 14 days after their arrival.
  • Suspending Regular Visa Services: The president also ordered the suspension of regular visa services at U.S. embassies and consulates. This means routine visa processing for tourists and workers around the world has been suspended.

These measures, as many argue, have essentially amounted to a hold on immigration even before this executive order was issued.

What will happen to immigrant visa applications that were already filed is not yet known. What is known is people approved for green cards will not be allowed to enter the country for the next 60 days.

If you are not sure whether this order applies to you, it might be best to speak to an immigration attorney.

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