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The White House Immigration Proclamation: The Invisible Wall

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On Wednesday, April 22, 2020, President Trump signed a proclamation suspending the entry of certain legal immigrants for 60 days, effective as of April 23. Although the order is only effective for 60 days, there is the potential for it to get extended. Researchers at the Migration Policy Institute (MPI)—a non-partisan think tank working to improve immigration and integration policies—estimated that 52,000 individuals will lose their chance at a green card over the proclamation’s initial time span. Furthermore, the MPI approximates that if the proclamation were to remain in place for a year it could affect as many as 350,000 green card-seeking immigrants, about a third of the roughly one million foreign nationals that obtain lawful permanent residence annually. 
Who is Affected By the Immigration Proclamation?
The people primarily impacted by this order are immigrants who are currently outside of the United States and seeking to obtain a visa for lawful residence; it does not apply to immigrants currently in the U.S. Those in the U.S. on employment-based visas are unlikely to be directly affected. However, family immigration to the U.S. is essentially eliminated for everyone but spouses and children (under age 21) of U.S. citizens for as long as the order remains in place. It also pauses the diversity lottery. According to the Department of Homeland Security (DHS), about 45% of the approximately one million immigrants that obtained permanent residence last year entered as new arrivals. 
For example, a foreign national with a spouse who is a U.S. citizen is still eligible to apply for a green card. Also able to receive an immigrant visa or green card is any child (under age 21) of a U.S. citizen. Who isn’t able to receive a visa per the proclamation is the parents of that U.S. citizen. Conversely, the proclamation prohibits a resident alien from obtaining a visa for their spouse.
Exceptions to the Immigration Proclamation
While the scope of the White House’s immigration order is broad, there are a considerable number of exceptions. Those not impacted by the proclamation include lawful permanent residents, certain investors (EB-5), members of the military and their families, those deemed to be in the national interest, those assisting law enforcement, and immigrants who obtained permanent residence through asylum and refugee programs. 
Also excluded from the proclamation are foreign nationals seeking to enter on an immigrant visa as a physician, nurse, or other healthcare professional working to alleviate the effects of COVID-19. This is particularly important, as the more than three million immigrants working in healthcare fill one in four positions in the field. 
Temporary Workers and the Immigration Proclamation
Foreign nationals participating in guest worker programs such as the H-1B and L-1—visas that allow high-skilled workers, students, and agricultural labor to stay in the U.S. for a limited amount of time—are not immediately affected by the proclamation. If you are working in the U.S. on a visa like the H or L, once your green card application is filed we advise you to stay in the U.S. until Advanced Parole is secured. 
Other non-Immigrant visa holders not affected by the recent proclamation include O, P, TN, B, E, H-2A, H-2B, F-1, and all other temporary visas. If you possess a temporary visa and are traveling outside of the U.S., you should not have a problem re-entering the country; however, we suggest carrying copies of your last several paychecks and a letter verifying your employment from your employer with you. 
It’s important to note that after 30 days, the Secretary of Labor, Secretary of Homeland, and Secretary of State will review the nation’s  nonimmigrant programs and recommend measures to “stimulate the U.S. economy and ensure the prioritization, hiring and employment of United States workers.” Consequently, restrictions for temporary workers are potentially looming in the near future. 
The Importance of Immigrants
On the immigration order, Trump said, “Americans of all backgrounds will be first in line for jobs as our economy reopens, and crucially it also preserves healthcare resources for our patients.” However, this view is flawed according to a National Foundation for American Policy study which states: “The results of the state-level analysis indicate that immigration does not increase U.S. natives’ unemployment or reduce their labor force participation… Instead, having more immigrants reduces the unemployment rate and raises the labor force participation rate of U.S. natives within the same sex and education group.” 
While the White House’s proclamation will have an enormous impact on immigrants, it will make a miniscule amount of difference on unemployment. The 52,000 immigrants affected by this represent an infinitesimally small percentage of the 26 million Americans currently out of work.
A lot remains uncertain about the recent immigration proclamation—it’s likely to get challenged in court and even if it stays in place, the future of guest worker programs and overall duration of the order remains in flux. GoffWilson solely practices immigration law and is closely monitoring the proclamation. With over three decades of experience practicing immigration law, GoffWilson is your go-to resource in times like these. If you have any questions about your status, the status of an employee, or need clarification of this order, contact us today!
Filed under:Immigration Law