As you may have heard in the news, a couple of weeks ago President Trump made a declaration suspending many channels of legal immigration into the United States, effective as of April 23rd. It expires after 60 days, but “can be continued as necessary”.
The President is unjustifiably using the pandemic as an excuse to prohibit immigration. In the words of the President’s proclamation, “suspension of entry into the United States of aliens as immigrants would be detrimental to the interests of the United States.” We all certainly know this is not the case.
Who Is Covered and Who Is Not
It applies to individuals who:
- Are outside the United States on the effective date of the proclamation;
- Do not have an immigrant visa that is valid on the effective date of the proclamation; and
- Do not have an official travel document other than a visa (such as a transportation letter, an appropriate boarding foil, or an advance parole document) that is valid on the effective date of this proclamation or issued on any date thereafter that permits him or her to travel to the United States and seek entry or admission.
Of course, there are a number of exceptions to the rule.
It specifically does not apply to:
- Any lawful permanent resident of the United States;
- Any alien seeking to enter the United States on an immigrant visa as a physician, nurse, or other healthcare professional; to perform medical research or other research intended to combat the spread of COVID-19; or to perform work essential to combating, recovering from, or otherwise alleviating the effects of the COVID-19 outbreak, as determined by the Secretary of State, the Secretary of Homeland Security, or their respective designees; and any spouse and unmarried children under 21 years old of any such alien who are accompanying or following to join the alien;
- Any alien applying for a visa to enter the United States pursuant to the EB-5 Immigrant Investor Program;
- Any alien who is the spouse of a United States citizen;
- Any alien who is under 21 years old and is the child of a United States citizen, or who is a prospective adoptee seeking to enter the United States pursuant to the IR-4 or IH-4 visa classifications;
- Any alien whose entry would further important United States law enforcement objectives, as determined by the Secretary of State, the Secretary of Homeland Security, or their respective designees, based on a recommendation of the Attorney General or his designee;
- Any member of the United States Armed Forces and any spouse and children of a member of the United States Armed Forces;
- Any alien seeking to enter the United States pursuant to a Special Immigrant Visa in the SI or SQ classification, subject to such conditions as the Secretary of State may impose, and any spouse and children of any such individual; or
- Any alien whose entry would be in the national interest, as determined by the Secretary of State, the Secretary of Homeland Security, or their respective designees.
There is also this exception: “Nothing in this proclamation shall be construed to limit the ability of an individual to seek asylum, refugee status, withholding of removal, or protection under the Convention Against Torture and Other Cruel, Inhuman or Degrading Treatment or Punishment, consistent with the laws of the United States.”
An Ineffective and Alarming Development
This proclamation comes on the tail of a number of other measures taken to deal with the COVID-19 pandemic. It is disappointing to see that the President is referring mainly to the idea that immigrants take away jobs from United States citizens, which has repeatedly been found to be false. While concern over the 22+ million unemployed Americans is perfectly reasonable, the number of permanent residency applicants who would be processed in 60 days are likely to be a drop in the bucket.
For example, the United States grants permanent residency status to about 1 million people per year, give or take. Suspending these programs for 60 days, especially considering the major exception categories below, is likely to stop about 150,000 permanent residents, which will not address any of the systemic issues that are currently causing the highest unemployment in United States history.
Instead, in an administration that has always been more concerned with appearances and catering to its base than in practical solutions, the President is using the current events to put through policy that is popular with his base and will likely help him with reelection this November.
More practically, as we have all heard that the COVID-19 situation may be here to stay for months, it is extremely troubling that the President’s proclamation can easily be extended as long as he deems necessary.
If you happen to be a potential permanent residency applicant who does not fall into one of the exception categories below, the best thing you can do is get your paperwork perfectly in order and wait. Another option may be to take the initial steps to get the case moving forward knowing that this proclamation could affect your case in the future. These changes, however unpleasant, cannot be the permanent state of affairs, and eventually the proclamation will have to be suspended, at which point you can be ready to be one of the first people to submit their paperwork for processing.
Have questions or concerns about the president’s proclamation? Get in touch with us to discuss your case!