Last night, April 20th, President Donald Trump’s tweet created panic in immigrant households, businesses, and communities throughout the U.S. and abroad. He promised that he will be signing an Executive Order “temporarily suspending immigration into the United States.”
At the time of writing this post, there is no official statement or Executive Order from the White House. There is no clear guidance from the Administration. All the information we have at this time is President Trump’s tweet and the various new articles citing anonymous or otherwise unconfirmed sources. Nevertheless, we understand how confusing and stressful it is to have such limited information when this Order may or may not have a significant impact on you, your employees, or your loved ones. As an immigration law firm founded by immigrants, we understand this all too well.
We are actively monitoring this situation and will post updates as they become available. For now, we are posting a quick summary with some of our preliminary thoughts.
What is President Donald Trump proposing?
To quote his tweet in full, President Trump stated, “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.”
If this tweet is taken at face value, the proposed suspension is rooted in two of the Administration’s policy goals: to prevent the further spread of COVID-19 across the U.S., and to protect U.S. workers.
The New York Times reports that an Executive Order “temporarily barring the provision of new green cards and work visas could come as early as the next few days,” per sources allegedly familiar with the proposal. CNN reports that the Order will be a “temporary 120 day or so” halt on the issuance of some immigrant visas, per an Administration Official. However, without any official policy or explicit communication from the White House, it is unclear exactly what President Trump means. What will ultimately be included in the Executive Order is also unclear at this time.
Would the proposed Executive Order slow the spread of COVID-19?
In short, no. There is no direct correlation between immigration to the United States – which has been at a standstill for around a month – and the spread of COVID-19. According to U.S. epidemiologists cited in The Guardian, the greater threat is from within; recent anti-lockdown rallies across the country could lead to a surge in new infections.
Would the proposed Executive Order protect American jobs?
President Trump positioning his proposed Executive Order as a protection of American workers completely misdiagnosis the U.S. economic crisis. Amid the current crushing economic downturn, in which 22 million American have filed for unemployment since the president announced a National Emergency, joblessness is deliberate result of social distancing measures. Per The Washington Post, jobless Americans need “direct and immediate financial help, not protection from labor market competition” that does not exist. American joblessness is a direct result of our fight against COVID-19.
Additionally, the United States Citizenship & Immigration Services (USCIS), the federal entity that processes visa, green card, and citizenship applications, and the National Visa Center (NVC), which forwards those applications to Embassies abroad, are still operating. The USCIS and the NVC employ approximately 19,000 Americans. If President Trump’s Executive Order indeed halts all USCIS and NVC processing, at least 19,000 American federal governmental jobs may be at risk.
Wait, isn’t U.S. immigration basically already on hold?
Even without an Executive Order, immigration from outside the U.S. is already largely on pause, and has been for at least a month due to the COVID-19 pandemic in the U.S.
At this time, U.S. Embassies and Consulates are closed for interviews and visa processing, and it is unclear when normal services will resume. Unnecessary temporary travel is all but cancelled, with very few exceptions, limited to extreme emergency circumstances.
In the U.S., in-person interviews and appointments with USCIS have been postponed. USCIS is all but shut down, offering in-person services only to those USCIS decides are in dire need of emergency assistance. Citizenship oath ceremonies are to be rescheduled for a later date yet to be determined.
At this time, the USCIS is still accepting new cases and processing existing cases – and we are still preparing and filing them for clients – but those waiting for temporary visas or immigrant visas to enter the U.S. will not be able to enter until U.S. Embassies and Consulates resume regular appointment services.
At this time, we are still waiting for confirmation on the details of this Executive Order, and we cannot speculate on the impact of this Executive Order until it is released. Right now, immigration from abroad into the U.S. is already extremely limited due to COVID-19.
Will the Executive Order affect me?
The answer to this question varies based on each individual’s situation. At this time, we do not have an official Executive Order from the White House, so the impact is unclear.
The potential impact will depend not only on the details of the Executive Order, but also on the individual circumstances of each applicant. Temporary, non-immigrant visas are already not being issued by U.S. Embassies and Consulates abroad due to COVID-19, so temporary travel for tourism and business is already suspended. Immigrant visas, which allow foreign nationals to enter the U.S. and receive a green card upon entry, are also on hold due to COVID-19. It is unclear exactly how each group will be impacted, but it is important to understand the difference, because the President’s tweet does not make that distinction.
We are actively monitoring the situation and will update our blog as updates become available, so please do check back.
What does all of this mean?
Without a detailed official statement or Executive Order, very little is certain. What we know for sure is that the U.S. is facing a public health crisis that none of us have seen in our lifetimes. We believe that in this moment, a more robust public health response should be our highest priority as a nation. We believe that a robust public health response requires a strong united front, both on a national and international level.
We believe that countless immigrants are essential workers, from doctors to agricultural workers to sanitation engineers, and they should not carry fear of losing their status or being deported. This is not the time to use the power of the Executive Branch to spread fear among the very people who we should all be rallying behind. This is not the time to enact harmful policies that weaken the U.S. economy, and further divide its people. This is not the time to sacrifice immigrants for political gain. This is the time to show up for each other. As the mantra goes “WE ARE ALL IN THIS TOGETHER”!
At McEntee Law Group, we are committed to the advocacy and protection of immigrants, especially in these unprecedented times. If you or someone you know may be impacted by the above, and you would like to discuss potential immigration options with us, please reach out to us. You can use our contact form here or email us at firstname.lastname@example.org.
UPDATE: 4/21/2020 AT 7PM CST
In an update provided by AP News this evening, a reported source close to the president said that the Executive Order would only apply to those seeking employment-based green cards, and relatives of green card holders who are not U.S. citizens. Currently, there has been no word regarding the suspension of visas for temporary workers, students, or healthcare workers.
During this afternoon’s press conference, Trump stated “by pausing immigration we’ll help put unemployed Americans first in line for jobs as America reopens…it would be wrong and unjust for Americans laid off by the virus to be replaced with new immigrant labor flown in from abroad.” As of now, this is still speculation. We still do not have any information regarding the content of the proposed Executive Order (that is apparently being vetted by the Department of Justice). Stay tuned to this channel for more updates as this story unfolds.