On Monday evening, the President announced that he was going to sign an Executive Order to temporarily halt immigration to the United States. On Tuesday, he held a press conference where he answered questions about immigration, and this Houston immigration lawyer and Miami immigration lawyer watched almost the entire press conference.
Ever since the President’s announcement on Monday, I have been inundated by calls, emails and messages asking about the effect of the new immigration ban. Unfortunately, there has been nothing in writing, but only leaks about what might be in the ban. Even at yesterday’s press conference, the President did not reveal much, other than there would be a temporary halt.
I will follow-up with another blog post in a day or two analyzing the President’s Executive Order halting immigration, once it is written and signed, which he predicted would be today or tomorrow.
Here’s what we know directly from the President. It will be a temporary halt. The reason for it, as he stated yesterday, is to protect American jobs that have been lost due to the coronavirus pandemic. He made it very clear however, that he was not halting immigration because immigrants can bring coronavirus to the United States, but rather he was halting immigration to protect American jobs.
As a lawyer, this is very interesting that a President can cancel existing laws “to protect the job market,” especially when those laws were passed with protecting the job market in mind. Moreover, it is being done without any empirical study on the effect of immigration and the current job market. Of course, prior studies have shown the contrary, how immigration and immigrants actually improve the overall job market by becoming consumers, creating jobs and through investment.
While it may sound good and logical to the average person………halt immigration to protect American jobs……….the consequences of allowing a President to cancel existing laws passed by Congress and signed by prior presidents, can have very serious repercussions in the future. This can set a very dangerous precedent.
Moreover, our country has a long history of debating and passing immigration laws where there has always been a tug-of-war between the pro-immigration lobby and the labor lobby. Historically, and we are talking about many decades, the labor lobby (unions, etc) have wanted to limit immigration in order to protect American jobs. So, as Congress would pass laws about immigration, there would always be compromise in order to protect the American labor market. As a result, our immigration laws have been passed with certain rules already built-in to protect the labor market for American workers. It is no simple task for any company to bring in foreign workers, and it can take years with various levels of proof being submitted to the government to show that American workers are not being displaced.
The Executive Order to halt immigration reminds me of the Obama Executive Order to extend DACA-like protection to parents of U.S. citizens who are presently in the country. In that situation, the courts stopped the Obama program saying that he cannot extend immigration laws by Executive Order. It would be interesting to see if the courts say that Trump cannot limit or halt the laws by stopping immigration, by Executive Order. Like many past Executive Orders about immigration by President Trump, this new Executive Order will be immediately challenged in court, and no doubt, be temporarily enjoined from being enforced by a federal judge. As with his other Executive Orders, it will likely end up in the Supreme Court, and if recent precedent holds true, the Supreme Court will allow the temporary ban, perhaps in a more narrow fashion.
I will not speculate as to what forms of immigration will be banned, because the Order itself is coming at any moment and it will be specific. However, from his press conference and from the leaks so far, it seems that it will affect only immigrants who are currently outside the U.S., and not immigrants who have cases pending for work permits or green cards inside the U.S. Of course, I could be wrong and we will just have to see what it actually says.
Will the Order have an effect on applications for immigration such as extensions of B-2 visitor status or E-2 investor status, or even H-1B or L-1 visa status? The answer is almost certainly, no. That would be way too broad to get past the Supreme Court in my opinion. Will it stop an immigration lawyer like me from submitting visa petitions for my clients? The answer is that it is very unlikely to have that effect. All indications are that it is a temporary halt on a very narrow basis, as affects people entering the United States from abroad. So, for people here, it almost certainly will not halt the immigration situation within the United States………but we will see, so,watch for my update.
Finally, as a practical matter, there is already an effective immigration halt because immigrant and non-immigrant visas are issued by U.S. Consulates and U.S. Embassies around the world and they have all been closed since last month and are not issuing any visas. Additionally, most airlines are no longer flying into the United States, so that even those with visas cannot get into the country right now.
Bruce Coane is a Houston immigration lawyer and Miami immigration lawyer who is Board Certified in Immigration & Nationality Law by the Texas Board of Legal Specialization. He may be reached at [email protected] or by phone at 305-701-4624 or 713-850-0066. The website is http://www.coane.com.