Published April 22, 2020

By: Richard Hanus, Esq.

1. It was the evening of April 20, 2020 and President Trump tweeted an ominous new policy on immigration – a measure as sweeping and extreme as it gets: “In light of the attack from the Invisible Enemy, as well as the need to protect the jobs of our GREAT American Citizens, I will be signing an Executive Order to temporarily suspend immigration into the United States!”  To “temporarily suspend immigration” is no small undertaking, and the news came as a big surprise, including for many top governmental officials working in the immigration arena.  This left top aides scrambling to define what “suspending immigration” means policy-wise and how to finalize the actual language of the Executive Order.  Just as important it sent a shiver down the spines of tens of millions of panicked non-citizens living or planning to live in the U.S..  The unforgettable Monday evening tweet left its audience with the reasonable impression that an all encompassing wall was about to be built around the U.S. and that no new, or even current, immigrants are welcome.

2. On April 22, 2020, the Executive Order entitled, “Proclamation Suspending Entry of Immigrants Who Present Risk to the U.S. Labor Market During Economic Recovery Following the Covid-19 Outbreak”, became final and the details were revealed.  For certain, the bark was definitely much louder than the bite, as the reach of the suspension was far narrower than the blanket ban as threatened in the April 20 tweet.  The actual impact involves a 60 day pause for the entry of only foreign nationals now OUTSIDE THE U.S. awaiting final immigrant visa processing and who fall within one of the following classes: new/pending employment based immigrant visa (green card) applicants AND most categories of new/pending family based immigrant visa applicants, including spouses and children of lawful permanent residents as well as parents of adult U.S. citizens.  Those otherwise within the above classes but exempted from the 60 day ban include certain healthcare workers, investors, adoptees and family of U.S. armed forces members.  Also exempted are spouses and children of U.S. citizens OUTSIDE THE U.S. awaiting the final processing/issuance of their immigrant visa (green card).

3. To the relief of millions of potentially impacted individuals – the classes of immigrants NOT covered by the ban included: A) pending family and employment permanent resident applicants now in the U.S. and awaiting processing, B) current lawful permanent residents – and with no restrictions for applying for U.S. citizenship, C) current temporary visa holders, including visitors, students and H-1B and other workers.  For these non-citizens, nothing has changed and that includes prospective and currently pending applicants for permanent residence (green card) all of whom can expect to be processed as usual.

4. In reality, the EO does not amount to much, if any, change in the status quo and merely puts into name, grandly and conspicuously, the extension of a policy that has already been in effect for the past 6 weeks. Virtually all aspects of overseas U.S. consular processing of visas, including immigrant visas, has ceased due to the Covid 19 crisis.  The EO extends what is in place for another 60 days, a status quo that likely would have continued regardless, minus this week’s pomp and circumstance, on account of the overall Covid 19 hazards.

5. The EO’s language also indicates that the need for an extension of the ban will be evaluated at the end of the 60 day period.  Further, the EO scarily hints at the possible widening of ban to cover the entry of additional classes of immigrants when the issue is revisited in 60 days.  Such an approach is premised on what the administration sees as its broad legal authority to bar entry into the U.S. of non-citizens deemed to be “detrimental” to U.S. interests.

6. Many questions have been raised as to the timing, method and motivations surrounding the President’s sudden Monday night tweet and eventual Executive Order.  The EO was rolled out in the name of protecting the health of our country’s residents and the rights of U.S. workers.  Many commentators have questioned whether the surprise moves of this week, though, had more to do with distracting the nation’s and media’s attention away from blame being aimed at the Administration for shortcomings in their overall handling of the Covid 19 crisis.

PUBLISHED April 22, 2020– “IMMIGRATION LAW FORUM” Copyright © 2020, By Law Offices of Richard Hanus, Chicago, Illinois