On April 22, 2020, Trump issued a presidential proclamation suspending the entry of certain immigrants into the United States—immigrants the administration alleges “present risk to the U.S. labor market during the economic recovery following the COVID-19 outbreak.” Unfortunately, this proclamation comes as no surprise, following Trump’s “immigration ban” tweet on April 20th and following growing questions and criticism about the administration’s handling of the COVID-19 pandemic.
The proclamation will go into effect at 11:59 PM (Eastern Time) tonight, April 23, 2020, and will be in effect for 60 days, with the option for the administration to amend or extend the proclamation as they see fit. Within 50 days from the effective date, the Secretaries of the U.S. Department of Homeland Security (DHS), Department of State (DOS), and Department of Labor (DOL) must recommend whether the administration should continue or modify the proclamation.
At present, the proclamation suspends and limits entry for anyone seeking to enter the U.S. as an immigrant who:
- Is outside the United States on the effective date of the proclamation;
- Does not have a valid immigrant visa on the effective date; and
- Does not have a valid official travel document (such as a transportation letter, boarding foil, or advance parole document) on the effective date, or issued on any date thereafter that permits travel to the United States to seek entry or admission.
The following categories are exempted from the proclamation, and it will be within the discretion of the consular officer to determine if an individual is within one of these categories:
- Lawful Permanent Residents (LPRs) (green card holders);
- Individuals, and their spouses and children, seeking to enter the United States on an immigrant visa as a physician, nurse, or other healthcare professional, or to perform medical research or other work essential to combating the COVID-19 outbreak (as determined by DOS and DHS);
- Individuals applying for a visa to enter pursuant to the EB-5 immigrant investor visa program;
- Spouses and children (under 21) of U.S. citizens, including prospective adoptees seeking to enter on an IR-4 or IH-4 visa;
- Individuals who would further important U.S. law enforcement objectives (as determined by DOS and DHS);
- Members of the U.S. Armed Forces and their spouses and children;
- Afghan and Iraqi nationals who were translators/interpreters or employed by the U.S. government, and their spouses or children, seeking entry pursuant to a Special Immigrant Visa;
- Individuals whose entry would be in the national interest (as determined by DOS and DHS).
Anyone who circumvents the application of this proclamation through fraud, willful misrepresentation, or illegal entry will be prioritized for removal from the United States.
- The current proclamation does NOT extend to nonimmigrant visa holders. However, within 30 days, the DOL, DHS, and DOS Secretaries will be required to review temporary visa programs and provide the administration with recommendations to stimulate the U.S. economy and ensure the “prioritization, hiring and employment” of U.S. workers.
- The proclamation does NOT prohibit individuals already in the United States from seeking to adjust, change, or extend their status before U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS).
- The proclamation does NOT limit the ability of individuals to apply for asylum, refugee status, withholding of removal (WOR), or protection under the Convention Against Torture (CAT).
It is also important to note that this does not change things much from where we already were because:
- Routine visa services at all U.S. embassies and consulates are already suspended;
- Travel restrictions to and from various countries are already in place;
- Border entries from Canada and Mexico are already restricted;
- USCIS has temporarily suspended in-person services at its Field Offices, Asylum Offices, and Application Support Centers through May 3, 2020 (but continues to accept and process applications and petitions, including requests for extension or change of status); and
- The Executive Office for Immigration Review (EOIR) has postponed all non-detained immigration court cases through May 15, 2020. (Detained cases are proceeding as scheduled.)
Although this is surely a sign of what is to come out of this administration in the months ahead, we must continue to stand together against this virus, and we must not allow this administration to polarize and divide us, to sow fear and mistrust, or to try to distract us from the priority of building a robust public health response so that we can get our society and economy back on track.
Our office will continue to share updates via this website and our social media throughout this time.