In a late-night tweet on Monday, April 20, President Trump threatened to end all immigration to the United States.
"In light of the attack from the Invisible Enemy, as well as the need to protect the jobs of our GREAT American Citizens, I will be signing an Executive Order to temporarily suspend immigration into the United States!" Trump tweeted.
Differing versions of the executive order were leaked to various media organizations Tuesday. In his daily coronavirus press briefing, Trump offered some additional details but few necessary specifics regarding the proposed 60-day ban, which is of course subject to extensions. As of the press conference, the executive order was not drafted. Trump indicated it would be drafted Tuesday night and signed on Wednesday. It is not clear when the ban provisions would go into effect.
Trump stated that the ban would be lifted upon meeting unspecified economic factors, namely reduction in U.S. unemployment rates. When pressed by a White House Pool reporter what benchmarks must be met, he was unable to offer any specifics. Further, he indicated that the ban would have notable exemptions, although again failing to specify what those were.
Sowing notable confusion in the process, Trump did not address whether the ban would only apply to applicants seeking immigrant visas abroad, or also apply to applicants already in the U.S. seeking adjustment of status. The latter, suspending adjustment, would surely force many families to fall out of status and subject them to deportation.
INA Section 212(f), which was utilized by the Administration in its various travel bans to date, states as follows:
Suspension of entry or imposition of restrictions by President
Whenever the President finds that the entry of any aliens or of any class of aliens into the United States would be detrimental to the interests of the United States, he may by proclamation, and for such period as he shall deem necessary, suspend the entry of all aliens or any class of aliens as immigrants or nonimmigrants, or impose on the entry of aliens any restrictions he may deem to be appropriate.
Trumps use of this statutory text has been upheld by the Supreme Court. However, that statutory provision applies only to the issuance of visas and physical entry to the U.S., as opposed to the adjustment process where a prospective immigrant is already present within our borders. At present, very few immigrant visas are being issued as consulates worldwide have closed due to COVID-19, thereby having little effect beyond the coronavirus status quo.
It remains unclear as of this time what basis Trump would use to foreclose adjustments. There is also no additional guidance on the effect on visa petitions, or what would be done concerning applicants who have pending Green Card applications.
Notably, Trump confirmed that the ban would not affect the issuance of nonimmigrant visas, and accordingly would not address foreclosing extensions or changes of status. However, he did mention that a second – more restrictive – executive order is also being drafted and could be utilized at a later date.
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