The temporary ban on immigration to the US does not apply to spouses or minor children of US citizens.
Rabat – Donald Trump’s official executive order suspending immigration to the US may seem daunting, but the restrictions are not as sweeping as they seem, nor are they permanent—at least, not yet.
The temporary restrictions, Trump says, are in the service of Americans who are struggling with unemployment amid the COVID-19 crisis.
The virus has infected 855,301 people in the US and killed 48,483 to date.
On top of the staggering infection figures and death toll, unemployment claims in the US have reached historic heights as COVID-19 has forced a suspension of regular economic activity, with 22 million Americans filing for unemployment.
“I have determined that, without intervention, the United States faces a potentially protracted economic recovery with persistently high unemployment if labor supply outpaces labor demand,” Trump’s proclamation states.
He says the move favors disadvantaged groups, including minorities, those without a college degree, and the disabled: “These are the workers who, at the margin between employment and unemployment, are likely to bear the burden of excess labor supply disproportionately.”
“This order will ensure that unemployed Americans of all backgrounds will be first in line for jobs as our economy reopens,” Trump said during a press conference at the White House yesterday.
Critics of the immigration suspension have called it a political move to distract from Trump’s delayed response to the COVID-19 crisis while reinforcing his hardline anti-immigration stance to shore up support for his reelection bid.
When does it go into effect, and for how long?
Trump signed the order yesterday, April 22, and the decree goes into effect today, April 23, at 11:59 p.m. eastern daylight time. For now, the restrictions only apply for 60 days, but the language of the text leaves the order open to an extension.
No later than 50 days from the effective date of the order, the Secretary of Homeland Security, the Secretary of State, and the Secretary of Labor are to advise the president on whether he should prolong or modify the executive order.
Who is affected?
The executive order has no impact on temporary stays in the US for tourism, business, or medical treatment, although such travel is currently limited due to COVID-19.
The restriction on immigration applies to non-citizens and lawful permanent residents (LPRs), also known as green card holders, who are outside of the country on the effective date of the order.
Green card holders currently in the US, however, will be temporarily unable to sponsor their extended families.
Those who do not have a valid immigrant visa or another valid travel document on the effective date of the order are also barred from immigrating.
“Lawful permanent residents, once admitted, are granted ‘open-market’ employment authorization documents, allowing them immediate eligibility to compete for almost any job, in any sector of the economy,” the proclamation states.
“There is no way to protect already disadvantaged and unemployed Americans from the threat of competition for scarce jobs from new lawful permanent residents,” it continues.
The president’s proclamation adds that most immigrant visa categories do not require employers to account for the displacement of American workers, and as a result, the president is compelled to temporarily prohibit the entry of immigrants he deems “would be determinantal to the interests of the United States.”
The executive order also suspends the Diversity Visa Lottery, which issues approximately 50,000 green cards each year.
Trump’s primary aim is to curb the issuance of green cards, which give immigrants legal permanent residence and the opportunity to apply for American citizenship. The Washington-based Migration Policy Institute expects the order to block more than 20,000 visa applicants per month for the duration of its validity.
In addition to the executive order, the Trump administration has already limited visitors from China and most of Europe and closed its northern and southern borders to all but “essential” travel from Mexico and Canada.
Earlier this month, the president also invoked a 1944 law enabling the US to deny asylum seekers at the border to prevent the spread of communicable diseases and, in September 2019, lowered the ceiling on refugee admissions.
Who is exempt?
Trump’s initial tweet announcing the executive order threatened to suspend all immigration to the US, but the actual decree, evidently, does not have as far a reach.
LPRs, or green card holders, currently residing in the US and seeking to adjust their status will not be affected by the decree.
The suspension does not apply to healthcare professionals or others immigrating to advance the US in its fight against COVID-19, nor does it affect farm laborers, skilled workers in the H-1B visa program, or those applying for a visa under the EB-5 Immigrant Investor Program.
The suspension also exempts spouses of US citizens or US citizens’ children who are unmarried and under 21 years old. Prospective adoptees seeking entry into the US under the IR-4 or IH-4 visa classifications are also exempt.
Members of the US military and their spouses and children are still permitted to immigrate. Special SI or SQ immigrant visas for Iraqi and Afghan nationals who have worked for the US government, along with their spouses and children, are also valid.
As with all of Trump’s immigration laws, foreign nationals “whose entry would further important United States law enforcement objectives” or “whose entry would be in the national interest” are permitted to immigrate, given they have the necessary recommendations and authorization.
Should you panic?
American citizens hoping to move their foreign spouses and children to the US can breathe a sigh of relief, but green card holders in the US looking to reunite with their families will have to be more patient.
Still, the entry of non-citizens to the US—or any country, for that matter—has already been largely severed thanks to the COVID-19 pandemic and corresponding restrictions on international travel. The US suspended visa services in March and refugee admissions are currently on hold.
It remains to be seen whether international travel will return to normal within the 60-day lifespan of the executive order, or even within any of its extension periods.
The future of the executive order is uncertain, but until Trump makes a decision on its longevity, there is no need to panic yet—especially given the possibility that his presidency and the controversial decrees he has signed during his term may come to an end in the near future.