President Trump issued a proclamation “Suspending Entry of Immigrants Who Present Risk to the U.S. Labor Market During the Economic Recovery Following the COVID-19 Outbreak.” This proclamation became effective on April 23, 2020 and will expire 60 days from its effective date and may be continued.
Coverage and Exemptions
Those severely affected are those outside the United States who are immigrant applicants. It does not affect those adjusting status in the United States. There are several exemptions to the Proclamation, among these categories are:
- Green card holders or immigrant visa holders at the time of the proclamation. If an individual is already in possession of an immigrant visa or green card before the Proclamation, they can still travel back to the United States.
- Those with temporary travel documents can still enter the U.S. Examples are individuals in possession of transportation letters issued by the U.S. Embassy, re-entry permits and advance parole issued by the U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS)
- Health care workers, professionals and other essential medical workers alleviating the effects of COVID-19 are exempt
- Temporary visa holders such as tourists, student visa holders and working visa holders. They can still enter the U.S. if their visas are still valid.
- Minor children (below 21 years old) and spouses of U.S. citizens may still continue to be processed for their immigrant visas and travel to the U.S.
Families of Immigrants Severely Affected
There are three categories of family members adversely impacted by this Proclamation.
First on the list are the parents of U.S. citizens and preference categories beneficiaries of petitions filed by green card holders and U.S. citizens.
The parents of U.S. citizens should have been considered as immediate relatives of U.S. citizens and should have been included in the exemption. The goal of the proclamation as stated is to protect U.S. workers, but how are parents of U.S. citizens a threat or in competition with U.S. workers?On the contrary ,should they not be immigrating right now to allow them to assist in caring for their grandchildren especially during this time of COVID-19 pandemic? U.S. citizens parents, with minor children who are still in school, are shuffling between engaging in essential work (such as the health care workers)or work from home and taking care of their children’s online schooling. The presence of a grandparent or any additional member of the family will be beneficial to a typical immigrant household.
Second category of those affected are families of U.S. citizens who are adults, married or unmarried, their siblings and families of lawful permanent residents who are spouses, minor or adult unmarried children. This group of visa applicants will have their visa processing outside the U.S.suspended as a result of this Proclamation. But take note that these are the relatives who have waited for many years, some for more than 2 decades, to be reunited with their families. Considering the lengthy delay before visas become available, the majority of the petitioners are now elderly citizens. It is these elderly U.S. citizens and lawful permanent residents who actually need the company of their adult children during this COVID-19 epidemic. Depriving them family reunification at a critical time when they are needed most is certainly detrimental given the importance of family to the immigrants.
The third and last category of immigrants affected are the minor children who are aging out. The Child Status Protection Act (CSPA) may protect certain minor children from aging out but several categories of aging out children may not qualify under the CSPA. With the Proclamation suspending immigration of those in the preference categories, minor children who aged out will be rendered ineligible as minor children or derivative minor children. There will be no protection from them while the Proclamation is in effect resulting in prolonged separation from their lawful permanent resident parents.
Trump has always targeted these families of immigrants and U.S. citizens in his proposals to limit immigration. He has found a ‘convenient’ time to implement his intended policy in the guise of protecting U.S. workers. If it is indeed to protect U.S. workers, why are there more family based immigrants affected over employment based workers who are already in the United States? There is no valuable national interest in suspending family reunification. We are in critical times, the priorities should be focused on directly addressing the COVID-19 crisis and not in weakening our family support system.
(Atty. Lourdes S. Tancinco is an immigrant advocate and legal counsel based in San Francisco CA. She is the principal and co-founder of Tancinco Law Offices and may be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org, www.tancinco.com, facebook/tancincolaw, or at 1-888-930-0808)