Trump stops Green Cards for 60 days overseas. H-1B visa could be next

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International travelers (reflected in a closed door) arrive on the day that U.S. President Donald Trump’s limited travel ban, approved by the U.S. Supreme Court, goes into effect, at Logan Airport in Boston, Massachusetts, U.S., June 29, 2017. REUTERS/Brian Snyder/Files

NEW YORK – In a drastic move that could reshape legal immigration into the United States for a long time, or at least for as long as Trump or a conservative Republican candidate is in the White House, a proclamation by the President on Tuesday, has stopped new Green Cards being issued overseas, as well as entry for most work visa holders, and their dependents, among other restrictions.

“In light of the attack from the Invisible Enemy, as well as the need to protect the jobs of our GREAT American Citizens,” Trump wrote on Twitter late Monday night. “I will be signing an Executive Order to temporarily suspend immigration into the United States!”

Trump made that vow good the next day.

He issued a proclamation that seeks primarily to restrict immigration for an initial period of 60 days, with a view to protect jobs for Americans in the wake of the massive unemployment crisis and national emergency unleashed by the coronavirus pandemic. Trump declared he would review the order to see if it needs relaxation or extension.

“In the administration of our Nation’s immigration system, we must be mindful of the impact of foreign workers on the United States labor market, particularly in an environment of high domestic unemployment and depressed demand for labor,” Trump said in the proclamation.

“…Excess labor supply affects all workers and potential workers, but it is particularly harmful to workers at the margin between employment and unemployment, who are typically “last in” during an economic expansion and “first out” during an economic contraction.  In recent years, these workers have been disproportionately represented by historically disadvantaged groups, including African Americans and other minorities, those without a college degree, and the disabled.  These are the workers who, at the margin between employment and unemployment, are likely to bear the burden of excess labor supply disproportionately,” he added.

Trump made it clear that the target of the proclamation was to have more new Green Card holders, and new visa workers.

“Furthermore, lawful permanent residents, once admitted, are granted “open-market” employment authorization documents, allowing them immediate eligibility to compete for almost any job, in any sector of the economy.  There is no way to protect already disadvantaged and unemployed Americans from the threat of competition for scarce jobs from new lawful permanent residents by directing those new residents to particular economic sectors with a demonstrated need not met by the existing labor supply,” he declared.

According to the order, beginning from April 22, 2020, apart from putting a stop to new Green Cards being issued overseas for 60 days – given mostly to family members sponsored by American citizens, or ‘chain migration’ as conservatives like to call it, it would also prevent travel of work visa holders who don’t have an advance parole, a transportation letter, or an appropriate boarding foil.

The order ensures that most work visa holders, on H-1B visa, and their dependents, currently in the US, and not in possession of an advance parole document, would be wary of traveling overseas, as there is no guarantee of their being allowed back in.

Trump’s order does not cover existing green card holders, healthcare professionals, or those combating the spread of COVID-19; an alien applying for a visa to enter the United States pursuant to the EB-5 Immigrant Investor Program; the spouse of a United States citizen; and aliens under 21 years old and the child of a United States citizen. It also protects aliens whose entry would further US law enforcement objectives, and members of the United States Armed Forces and their dependents.

Breitbart News reported that an initial draft of the order, would have suspended a multitude of visa worker programs — stopping the immediate importation of thousands of foreign workers while more than 26.5 million Americans have filed for unemployment in recent weeks due to the Chinese coronavirus crisis.

The draft suspended E visas for foreign treaty traders and investors, B visas for foreign business travelers and tourists, H-1B and H-2B visas foreign workers, J-1 visas for foreign exchange visitors, L visas for foreign employees, and O visas for foreign workers, the report said.

Trump reportedly backed down from a sweeping restriction on all work visas after industry honchos put pressure on him for specialized foreign labor, which mostly come in on H-1B and L work visas.

Sources close to the administration have said Trump may look to expand the order to include more pauses on varying immigration programs as unemployment among Americans continues rising, Breitbart reported. The order marks the first time in recent history that a president has used executive authority to protect Americans from the economic burdens of legal immigration.

Trump’s legal immigration restrictions follow several measures put in place by the administration recently, including shut down of consular offices overseas, a stop on all visa interviews, and even citizenship ceremonies in the US. Undocumented aliens are now being marched back and flown across the border without any legal recourse.

In a further blow to undocumented residents, the Department of Education issued on Tuesday guidelines that will bar undocumented college students, including Dreamers, from receiving federal emergency aid for expenses, including food, housing and child care, reported the New York Times.

It is likely that Trump will continue to extend the restrictions in the proclamation, as his core base have criticized his move as doing too less on the immigration front in his new directive.

The Federation for American Immigration Reform (FAIR) sent a letter to Trump on Thursday saying the executive order “does not deliver” and accused the president of “placating to business interests” by including exemptions for temporary workers.

“The American public understands that a meaningful pause of immigration must include all immigration, especially guestworkers,” FAIR President Dan Stein wrote, reported The Hill.

The group called on Trump to issue a new executive order in the next 30 days that includes “all forms of immigration, including guest worker programs, which would allow hundreds of thousands of Americans out of the labor force to come back in, both now and when the economy finally starts to recover.”

Roy Beck, head of NumbersUSA, lamented in a statement that “corporate lobbyists and other immigration expansionists in the White House persuaded the President to significantly water down” the executive order. He said it will ultimately fall to Congress to enact more expansive immigration reform.

The Center for Immigration Studies called the executive order “confusing” and argued it would have little tangible effect on Americans put out of work by the coronavirus pandemic. The group called for Trump to suspend “all temporary work visa programs” and scale back work permits for foreign students and spouses of temporary workers.

“There is no case for bringing in a million temporary visa workers when 22 million American workers are unemployed,” Jessica Vaughan, director of policy studies at Center for Immigration Studies, said in a blog post reacting to the order.

Some conservatives were delighted with Trump’s tweet.

Senator Tom Cotton, Republican of Arkansas, had been delighted with Trump’s tweet before the proclamation, saying: “22 million Americans have lost their jobs in the last month because of the China virus. Let’s help them get back to work before we import more foreigners to compete for their jobs.”

Legal experts say Trump is likely on solid legal ground with the order, noting the Supreme Court granted the president broad authority on immigration after upholding a version of his travel ban in 2018, reported the Hill.

Immigration has already fallen drastically in the last two months.

According to the latest State Department figures, only 24,383 immigrant visas were issued in March, compared with 37,658 in February and 37,618 in March 2019. The drop in visa issuances to Chinese nationals was especially precipitous, following travel restrictions imposed by Trump on Chinese nationals on January 31. Allocations of immigrant visas to Chinese nationals plummeted from 2,392 in January, to 134 in February and 92 in March, reported the Times.

The number of visas issued to foreigners abroad looking to immigrate to the United States has declined by about 25 percent in the past three years, to 462,422 in the 2019 fiscal year, from 617,752 in 2016. USCIS processed nearly 580,000 green card approvals for foreigners who applied for permanent residency, the latest statistics show.

CNN reported Acting Homeland Security Secretary Chad Wolf said Thursday that Trump’s immigration executive order is a first step, teasing additional measures aimed at non-immigrant temporary visas.

“That is something that the department has been looking at for the past several months, so we are well underway and look forward to presenting to the President those recommendations for additional steps,” he said during a Fox News interview.

Wolf denied criticism that Trump is only appealing to his “nativist base” and damaging US economic and public health, saying the order applies to “new immigrants” who will compete with Americans for jobs.

Asked about extending travel restrictions to the US, Wolf said, “I think it’s critical to maintain these travel restrictions for a little bit longer till we see how this plays out.”

The Nachman Phulwani Zimovcak Law Group, with offices in the US, Canada and India, pointed out that “most troubling about the new EO are two vaguely drafted provisions that leave the door open to the possibility for an extension of the ban as well as a provision that permits additional steps to be taken by the secretary of state and the secretary of labor with regard to additional ways in which the US labor market can be protected due to the COVID-19 impact on the US economy.”

David Nachman, the Managing Attorney at NPZ Law Group, P.C. stated in a press release to News India Times: “The executive order appears merely to be campaign rhetoric but leaves open the opportunity to address potential review of nonimmigrant visa work programs in the US and for additional steps to be taken by the Trump Administration to stimulate the US economy and to ensure the prioritization, hiring and employment of US workers”.

Immigration attorney Cyrus Mehta also felt that the Executive Order would soon include further restrictions.

“The EO suggests that more restrictions could come in, and this is not the end. The 60 day pause is a chimera. Don’t be fooled as the Muslim ban was also supposed to be temporary”, Mehta tweeted.

Earlier, critics had lambasted Trump’s move to restrict legal immigration.

“The implication is that immigrants are a threat to the American economy, but we know the exact opposite to be true,” said Krish O’Mara Vignarajah, president and CEO of Lutheran Immigration and Refugee Service, to NBC. “While immigrants across America are on the front lines risking their lives to save ours, it is simply unconscionable to scapegoat immigrants for this pandemic.”

Sen. Kamala Harris, D-Calif., also came down hard on Trump’s decision. She said the president was taking advantage of the situation to push his hard-line immigration policies.

“Trump failed to take this crisis seriously from day 1. His abandonment of his role as president has cost lives. And now, he’s shamelessly politicizing this pandemic to double down on his anti-immigrant agenda,” Harris tweeted.

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