Donald Trump’s Immigration Proclamation in light of COVID-19

April 25, 2020 2:24 PM

Like its effect everywhere else the COVID 19 situation has caused uncertainty in the immigrants world too and the effect of this proclamation will be felt in proportion to how long it is implemented and what recommendations might follow within the stipulated 50 days.

On the 22nd of April, a presidential proclamation was signed.

By Nandika Handa

On 20th April 2020 President Trump announced that he would “temporarily suspend immigration to the United States”. On the 22nd of April a presidential proclamation to this effect was signed. There has been a lot of conjecture the nature of and effect of this proclamation. It has been officially stated the proclamation has been passed as a measure in aiding the economic recovery after the hard blow delivered by the Corona Virus to the US economy. The current stress on the health and infrastructure is tremendous and unemployment has soared to unprecedented heights.

In this context it has been said the proclamation aims at remedying the “excess labour supply” and that it seeks to protect the sections of society that are “Last in” in an economic expansion and “First out” during times of an economic contraction.

It also seeks to offset the effect of COVID-19 on an already strained medical system by preventing entry of additional population and potentially burdening the system more than it already is.

The exceptions to this are broadly: Lawful P.R of the USA; Spouses of US citizens; Children of US citizens under 21; Prospective adoptee under IR-4/IH-4; Applicant whose entry would strengthen U.S law enforcement; Member of U.S armed forces along with children and spouse; Alien entering under SI/SQ classification; Alien applying for EB -5; and those whose entry is in national interest.

Those seeking immigration visas as physicians, nurses, healthcare professionals, research specialists or essential workers to help in the battle against COVID-19.

This proclamation will expire in 60 days from implementation. Within, or on 50 days from implementation The Secretary of Homeland Security in consultation with Secretary of State and Secretary of Labour are to recommend continuation or modification of the proclamation to the President.

While this proclamation has been passed to face an economic crisis caused by the pandemic, and, is of the likes never faced before. It might help the “Last in” and “First out” sections of society it can’t be viewed as the backbone of economic reform in light of COVID-19. Hopefully there will also be more of an impetus provided to the already strained healthcare system in the very near future.

Unfortunately, this will mean delays for those filing for their green cards and residing out of the USA.Those who have filed and are waiting for paperwork and interviews will have to face delays. Permanent residents wanting to file for their children will have to wait too.

Fortunately, asylum seekers and those applying for refugee status will be considered exempt from the suspension.

On the other hand, those immigrants already residing within USA and those who are on student visas can apply for visas to stay and work within the USA and those such as H1-b programmes can continue to apply for their green card.Companies can still apply for employees with extraordinary ability “under the H1B or L1 visa programmes. Broadly speaking this proclamation will not affect those immigrants within the USA as much as it will residing outside.

Like its effect everywhere else the COVID 19 situation has caused uncertainty in the immigrants world too and the effect of this proclamation will be felt in proportion to how long it is implemented and what recommendations might follow within the stipulated 50 days.

Before one is able to seek answers on the effect of this proclamation there will be a period of “wait and watch” and a lot will ride on larger factors – such as – how fast the US is able to flatten the curve in the face of this pandemic through various measures, how an already strained health care system is able to cope with the tremendous challenges that lie ahead – what impetus and assistance it is afforded to it in the time to come, and, most importantly, how soon a vaccination is developed to combat this permanently.

(The author is a Senior Immigration Consultant. Views expressed are personal.)

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