Proclamation of April 22nd, 2020: The Suspension of Entry of Immigrants Who Present a Risk to the United States Labor Market during the Economic Recovery Following the 2019 Novel Coronavirus Outbreak
On Wednesday, April 22nd, President Trump signed an executive order to suspend the issuance of new green cards to prevent immigration into the United States for at least 60 days. These immigration changes will affect thousands of immigrant applicants seeking to permanently move to the United States. The notoriously slow process of gaining permanent residency will be further slowed for individuals seeking to remain in the country.
The order explicitly articulates that its purpose is to ensure that unemployed American citizens, of all backgrounds, will be the first in line for jobs as the economy reopens. President Trump noted that it will, “preserve our healthcare resources for American patients” afflicted by COVID-19.
This executive provision is directed specifically towards foreign nationals seeking to obtain legal permanent statuses who are outside of the U.S. at the time of the order. Those who will be impacted by the suspension of entry include: aliens outside of the U.S. on April 22nd, 2020; aliens without an immigration visa that is valid on April 22nd, 2020; and aliens without an official travel document other than a visa (such as a transportation letter, advance parole document, etc…) that would permit them to travel to the U.S. for legal entry and admission. It is likely that the most-impacted category of aliens will be those seeking green cards through their employers or on account of their professional value.
Notably, the ban exempts aliens who enter the U.S. on an immigrant visa and who identify as physicians, nurses, or healthcare professionals. Aliens entering the U.S. to perform medical research or other research related to COVID-19 are also exempt from the provision. Any spouse or unmarried child under 21 of such an alien is also permitted to join him or her. This legislature will not apply to individuals coming into the U.S. temporarily, such as students or agricultural workers. It will not apply to individuals who obtained visas before April 22nd, 2020. U.S. refugees and asylum seekers will not be impacted by the executive order. The proclamation details a comprehensive list of aliens to whom this proclamation does not apply.
As of now, guest worker programs are not impacted by this provision, so technology workers, farm laborers, and workers in the food industry will continue to be able to apply and receive visas. In a statement, President Trump noted that he would ask his Administration to review guest-worker programs to assess if any further steps need to be taken to protect citizen workers.
After the 60-day period established by the executive order, the President will decide whether the order will be renewed or adapted. If the American economy struggles to recover from the current shutdown, according to the President, another order may be enacted to extend the ban or add supplemental restrictions to further deter immigration. The implementation of such provisions will likely make companies less likely to hire foreign workers or vulnerable noncitizens, because such a commitment may be undercut by the Administrations’ future orders.
Since the start of the pandemic, the Trump Administration has made over a dozen changes to the U.S. immigration system, using the coronavirus as justification for aggressive immigration restrictions. Previously, the Administration expanded travel restrictions and slowed visa processing. Immigration agencies and embassies have already stopped processing visas and citizenship ceremonies have been halted. Since March 19th, refugee resettlements have also been suspended, as both the U.N. and the International Organizations for Migration temporarily paused refugee travel. This order, however, is the broadest expansion of restrictions on immigration since the start of the COVID-19 outbreak.