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Understanding Trump’s Executive Order Limiting Immigration

Posted by Matthew Green | Jun 23, 2020 | 0 Comments

In April, President Trump signed an executive order which blocks immigration to the United States. This order, signed on April 22, was set to be in effect until “Whenever appropriate, but no later than 50 days from the effective date of this proclamation” and was to be either continued or modified based on the “consultation with the Secretary of State and the Secretary of Labor.” As of June 22, the order is not only going to be extended through December, but its restrictions are also to be furthered.    

Why has such an executive order been made?

The coronavirus pandemic has had significant economic impact and employment rates have fallen to lows equivalent to those of the Depression era.  According to the president, this ban on immigration is needed to protect American jobs.  “This order,” he said at the White House, “will ensure that unemployed Americans of all backgrounds will be first in line for jobs as our economy reopens.”  The administration characterizes the June 22 extension of the order as equally “necessary to protect U.S. workers following steep job losses amid the coronavirus pandemic,” reports the Washington Post.

Who is affected by the April 22 order? Who is not?

The executive order made on April 22 “blocks the issuance of all new immigrant (permanent) visas to people outside the United States, with some exceptions.” As specified by Immigration Impact, the ban applies to:

  • Parents of U.S. citizens

  • Adult children of U.S. citizens.

  • Spouses and children (regardless of age) of lawful permanent residents.

  • The diversity visa program.

  • All employment-based immigrant visas, except EB-5 investor visas.

  • All other immigrant visas, unless specifically exempted.

It does not, however, apply to “nonimmigrant (temporary) visas, such as students and H-1B high-skilled workers” and “exempts any immigrant abroad who already has an immigrant visa or travel document in hand.” Those pursuing a green card through “adjustment of status," as well as refugees, asylum seekers, and those currently holding lawful permanent resident status are similarly unaffected. Immigration Impact also provides a list of more limited exceptions, which are also made for the following individuals:

  • Spouses and minor children of U.S. citizens, as well as active duty troops and their families.

  • People seeking EB-5 “investor” visas.

  • Iraqi and Afghan translators who helped the U.S. military, as well as their families.

  • Any person obtaining an employment-based immigrant visa as a doctor, nurse, health care worker, medical researcher, or other job that the Department of Homeland Security determines is essential to combating the coronavirus. Spouse and children of these people are also exempted.

  • Any person obtaining an employment-based immigrant visa as a doctor, nurse, health care worker, medical researcher, or other job that the Department of Homeland Security determines is essential to combating the coronavirus. Spouse and children of these people are also exempted.

  • Anyone whose entry as an immigrant is determined to be in the “national interest” or that “furthers important law enforcement objectives.”

Who is affected by the June 22 extension? Who is not?

The upholding of the limits listed above will remain until the end of the year.  The extension will also bar H1-B, H4, and L visas, as well as most J and H2-B visas. These are work visas used by many companies in technology, landscaping, and forestry.  Exemptions are made for agricultural laborers, some healthcare workers, and au pairs.

Unlike the original order, the administration will also “issue new regulations denying work authorization to asylum seekers with pending claims for one year, arguing that the humanitarian program is being exploited by economic migrants who file meritless claims.”

Those who will remain unaffected include immigrants who already live in the U.S. and permanent residents seeking naturalization.

 Implications of the Executive Order 

President Trump's executive order to limit immigration has and will continue to have a significant effect. According to White House estimates, the new restrictions will prevent foreign workers from filling 525,000 jobs.  They will also affect more than half of the approximately 460,000 immigration visas issued last year.  

The implications of this immigration ban have not gone unnoticed.  Critics of the order say that the pandemic and current economic conditions are simply being used as an excuse to further the Trump administration's anti-immigration stance.  They also argue that the freeze on immigration will actually cause more economic harm than good. In his Forbes article, immigration attorney Andy J. Semotiuk writes more about this, using a letter submitted to the White House prior to the June extension by Compete America, a coalition of American employers, as an example.  Signed by over 300 U.S. companies and immigrant groups, this letter highlights the role of immigrant workers in science, technology, engineering and math (STEM) fields and urges the president “to avoid outcomes, even ones limited in validity for temporary periods, that restrict employment-authorization terms, conditions, or processing of L-1, H-1B, F-1, or H-4 nonimmigrants at this critical inflection point in our nation's history.” It also cites a July 2019 economic study on the impact of highly-skilled STEM immigration on the U.S. economy, which found that “the foreign-born share of STEM professionals in the United States increased from about 16% to 24% over the period 2000 to 2015 creating an estimated benefit of $103 billion for American workers.”  The letter warns that “Artificial constraints on our human capital are likely to result in unintended consequences and may cause chaos if we have to re-calibrate our personnel based on country of birth.” 

Despite the negative response and efforts such as this letter, the Trump administration has proceeded nonetheless and thousands of people will be affected in the months to come.

About the Author

Matthew Green

Managing Partner. Green | Evans-Schroeder (formerly Law Offices of Matthew H. Green) focuses on the aggressive defense of immigrants. A native of Arizona, Mr. Green understands the difficulties that immigrants and families of immigrants face when a loved one is charged with a crime. He knows how frightening it can be for some...


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