UPDATED 4/22/2020: White House Provides Details on Twitter-Announced Immigration Plan
The White House released more details on the proposed executive order referenced by President Trump in a tweet on the evening of April 21, 2020. The order is expected to be released as early as today and would pause the issuance of green cards for at least 60 days, preventing new permanent residents from entering the United States.
President Trump cited the order as a way to protect American jobs and hinted that there may be a second executive order with additional restrictions. However, the announcements stated that popular visas for foreign workers will not be affected and “will not apply to those entering on a temporary basis.” The President stated he wanted to protect U.S. workers: “I think as we move forward, we will become more and more protective of them.”
Last year, one million people became legal permanent residents or “green card holders.” The COVID-19 pandemic has already slowed processing and caused delays for green card seekers, as embassies and consulates have limited in-person services and rescheduled appointments required before entering the country. White House officials confirmed that U.S. citizens will still be allowed to bring their children or spouses to the U.S., but other family-based and employment-based permanent residence categories would be limited.
Many technology groups have pushed back against the announcements, pointing to the tremendous contributions immigrants make to the economy, both through ownership of companies with U.S. workers and as critical resources in organizations that need specific skill sets.
Trump Tweets Plan to “Temporarily Suspend Immigration into the United States”
President Donald Trump signaled his intention to suspend immigration into the U.S. amidst the COVID-19 outbreak, despite his continued reassurances that the pandemic is “under control.” Critics claim that his Twitter announcement is another strategy to limit legal immigration to align with hardliners within his party.
In his tweet, President Trump claims that he is protecting jobs of U.S. citizens. A series of USCIS policies were issued after his April 18, 2017 executive order: “Buy American and Hire American: Putting American Workers First.” As a result of the executive order and shifting adjudication standards, denials and Requests for Evidence (RFEs) rose for popular work visas such as H-1Bs and L-1s. H-1B denials doubled between 2017 and 2018, while RFEs jumped from 20.8% in 2016 to 40.2% in 2019. However, many such policies have been successfully challenged by employers in court. View our H-1B webinar for a recap of how the courts have recently sided with employers on a range of common RFE topics and reasons for denials.
Trump’s tweet is the first notice of his forthcoming executive order and provides no details on how he intends to limit immigration. The New York Times reported that “a formal order temporarily barring the provision of new green cards and work visas could come as early as the next few days, according to several people familiar with the plan.” If implemented, an order of this magnitude would far exceed the temporary travel restrictions already in place for Iran, China, and European countries.
While a tweet does not set policy or change immigration regulations, it does provide some clues as to how the forthcoming order may be framed. The President cites the “need to protect the jobs of our GREAT American Citizens,” so it is likely that he will focus the order on limiting work authorization for foreign workers.
An order with such wide-ranging scope would not consider the many foreign-owned businesses who employ U.S. citizens nor the need for labor in industries where U.S. citizens historically haven’t been able to fill the demand. New American Economy reports that 3.2 million immigrant entrepreneurs employ almost 8 million people in the U.S., contributing $1.3 trillion in sales. New American Economy also states that $458.7 billion in taxes were paid by immigrants in 2018.
While we cannot predict how the executive order will affect legal immigration, we will continue to keep you posted on any new updates. Processing times have slowed down due to the outbreak and continued backlogs, so it is important to make sure any extensions are filed in a timely manner and that individuals are maintaining compliance with the terms of their visas. At this time, we cannot advise on any travel plans. We will provide the latest news on our Monday webinar. Register now to attend at 11 AM ET on Monday, April 27, 2020.