President Trump Suspends Some Immigration

Allen Smith, J.D. By Allen Smith, J.D. April 23, 2020
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The white house

​President Donald Trump signed an executive order April 22 temporarily suspending immigration into the United States. He had tweeted April 20 that he would sign an executive order suspending immigration to protect U.S. citizens' jobs. We've gathered news on the announcement from SHRM Online and other trusted media outlets.

Immigration Ban Limited in Scope

The executive order applies to only a relatively few foreign nationals sponsored for employment visas.
The order puts a 60-day hold on green cards for certain family members of U.S. citizens and permanent residents who reside overseas; the 50,000 immigrants who come to the U.S. as part of an annual diversity visa lottery; and a limited number of workers sponsored by employers while still living abroad.

(SHRM Online)

60-Day Suspension

The suspension of immigrant visas will last for 60 days, but modification will be evaluated thereafter based on the economic conditions of the country, Trump said at an April 21 White House briefing. "Some people will be able to get in," he said. "But it's a strong order. It involves a big circle." The order exempts some nonimmigrant visas, including temporary workers. Immigrant visas, by contrast, are issued for those who intend to move permanently to the United States. The majority of immigrant visas are for family members of U.S. citizens or permanent residents. Agricultural workers who come to the U.S. for the harvest season or doctors doing their residencies in U.S. hospitals come on nonimmigrant visas.

(The Washington Post and The New York Times)


SHRM Resource Spotlight
Coronavirus and COVID-19

Mixed Reactions

Reactions to the president's move were divided along party lines. Democratic lawmakers criticized the announcement, saying that it distracts from the White House's response to the pandemic. Sen. Kamala Harris, D-Calif., tweeted that Trump "failed to take this crisis seriously from day one," and added that Trump is "shamelessly politicizing this pandemic to double-down on his anti-immigrant agenda." But Sen. Tom Cotton, R-Ark., tweeted his support, noting 22 million Americans have filed for unemployment in the past month. Sen. Ted Cruz, R-Texas, told Fox News, "Democrats are flabbergasted why we wouldn't want to continue bringing in new workers even though we have millions of workers here at home that we need to get back to work."

(The Hill)

Order's Scope

Trump said the order would apply only to those seeking permanent residency or green card seekers. "By pausing immigration, we'll help put Americans first in line for jobs as America reopens," Trump said at the briefing. "It would be wrong and unjust for Americans laid off by the virus to be replaced by new immigrant labor flown in from abroad."

(Business Insider)

DHS Relaxes Rules on Hiring Immigrant Farmworkers

In contrast, the Trump administration is loosening regulatory restrictions on employers seeking to hire immigrant farmworkers under the H-2A visa program during the coronavirus pandemic. The Department of Homeland Security (DHS) announced a temporary final rule allowing foreign national workers already in the U.S. with H-2A seasonal visas to switch employers without official approval and to stay in the country longer than the visa's typical three-year duration.

(SHRM Online)

Will Move Weaken the Economy?

Former Democratic presidential candidate Julian Castro said in a tweet, "You cut off immigration, you crater our nation's already weakened economy." The U.S. already suspended all routine visa services—immigrant and nonimmigrant—in most countries due to the coronavirus outbreak. Emergency visa services continue as the U.S. identifies people eligible for visas for medical professionals, according to a State Department official in late March. 

(Reuters)

COVID-19 Upends U.S. Immigration

Even before the president's announcement, the coronavirus pandemic has impacted several facets of employment-based immigration to the United States. The U.S. government has instituted travel bans, closed all U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) offices to the public and canceled all in-person services such as visa interviews and biometrics collection appointments. Nonetheless, USCIS staff, many of whom work remotely, continue to perform duties that do not involve contact with the public.

(SHRM Online)


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