President Donald Trump signed an executive order Wednesday, temporarily banning immigration into the US to protect jobs for American workers. Between March 1, 2020, the beginning of the country’s national emergency due to Covid-19, and April 11, 22 million Americans filed for unemployment as most economic activity came to a halt. As of Wednesday, the US remains the worst affected country, with more than 800,000 cases of coronavirus.
Trump tweeted, “I will be signing my Executive Order prohibiting immigration into our country today. In the meantime, even without this order, our southern border, aided substantially by the 170 miles of new Border Wall & 27,000 Mexican soldiers, is very tight – including for human trafficking!”.
I will be signing my Executive Order prohibiting immigration into our Country today. In the meantime, even without this order, our Southern Border, aided substantially by the 170 miles of new Border Wall & 27,000 Mexican soldiers, is very tight – including for human trafficking!
— Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) April 22, 2020
The order aims to protect an already distressed labour market from foreign workers. A press release issued by the White House following the publication of Trump’s order said, “It would be unfair to allow Americans out of work due to the coronavirus to be replaced by new immigrant labour brought into the United States.”.
While Trump has supported hard-line anti-immigration policies during his tenure, some critics see this move as taking advantage of the pandemic to pursue his goal of restricting immigrant entry into the US ahead of the November 3 presidential elections.
What does Trump’s executive order on immigration say?
“In the administration of our Nation’s immigration system, we must be mindful of the impact of foreign workers on the United States labour market, particularly in an environment of high domestic unemployment and depressed demand for labour,” the order says.
It adds that existing immigration policies are “inadequate”, and if more workers were to join the US labour market, minorities including African Americans would especially be threatened as they are at the “margins” — the last set of people to be employed and the first to be laid off.
Significantly, the order says that a vast majority of immigrant visa categories do not require employers to account for the displacement of US workers and that introducing more permanent residents into the US will put pressure on the limited healthcare resources.
Who is an immigrant in the US?
As per the US government, an immigrant is an alien who has been granted the right by the United States Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) to reside permanently in the US or work without restrictions in the country. Such a person is also known as a Lawful Permanent Resident (LPR). All immigrants are eventually issued “green cards”.
According to the USCIS, there are five employment-based immigrant visa categories: EB-1, EB-2, EB-3, EB-4 and EB-5.
So, then, what category of immigrants will be affected by the new order?
With this order, the US will temporarily stop issuing green cards. The affected individuals include any immigrant who is outside the US on the date of the proclamation, does not have an immigrant visa that is valid on the date of the proclamation or does not have a valid official travel document other than a visa, such as a transportation letter or an advance parole document.
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The suspension and limitation on entry is not applicable to any lawful permanent residents of the US, any individual seeking to enter the US on an immigrant visa as a physician, nurse or healthcare professional, or anyone entering to country to perform medical research or any other research intended to combat the Covid-19 pandemic.
Others who are exempted include the spouses or children (below the age of 21) of a US citizen and members of the US Armed Forces and their immediate family members. Individuals applying for a visa to enter the US through the EB-5 Immigrant Investor Program are also exempted.
Are immigrants who are already residing in the US affected by this order?
No, the order does not affect immigrants already living and working in the US, and are seeking to become permanent legal residents of the country. The order will also not affect visa processing for temporary skilled employees, including a sizeable share of Indians who take the H1-B route.
How long will the restrictions be in place?
As of now, the restrictions will be effective for a period of 60 days starting April 23, but they may be extended or modified depending on the dynamics of the US labour market.
Indians in the US
According to US government data, India-born immigrants in the US got the fourth highest number of green cards in 2017. During that year, 60,394 persons born in India got permanent resident status, out of these 20,549 were immediate relatives of US citizens, 14,962 were family sponsored, and 23,569 were employed in the US.
In the same year, over 50,000 India-born US residents were granted American citizenship, while more than 2 million Indian citizens visited the US, which includes tourists, business travellers, students, temporary workers and exchange visitors.
An article in The New York Times said that further restrictions on immigration could have “particularly acute consequences” for India especially, since it sends thousands of “highly skilled workers” to the US every year.
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