New Presidential Proclamation Continues Assault on Legal Immigration

On June 22, 2020, President Trump issued a Presidential Proclamation extending his previous suspension on entry of immigrants announced in April, and expanding the entry ban to include hundreds of thousands of temporary foreign workers to the U.S.  The expanded entry ban takes effect at 12:01 a.m. on June 24, 2020, and will last through December 31, 2020.

This ban will affect businesses in Maine that employ foreign seasonal and professional level workers who haven’t yet received their visas to enter the U.S.

The expanded proclamation applies to a broad range of worker categories,  from seasonal nonagricultural H-2B visas (whose employers already had to prove there were no U.S. workers available and willing for the jobs), to H-1B specialized knowledge professional employees who work overwhelmingly in STEM occupations, L-1 multinational company employees, and J-1 exchange visitors who often work in seasonal positions such as camp counselors and in the hospitality sector.   The entry ban also includes the spouses and children of these workers.

In Maine, this means that forestry, landscaping and construction H-2B workers, among others, who were unable to get their visas because of COVID-19 government restrictions, will not get to Maine this year. 

The nonimmigrant ban applies to those arriving from outside the U.S. who haven’t yet been issued their visas by June 23rd, such as those whose jobs won’t start until after the the new fiscal  year begins on October 1, 2020.    It would appear to also apply to those who changed from one visa to another in the U.S. but who leave the U.S. temporarily after June 23rd and would need to apply for a visa to be able to return, such as a foreign student who changed to H-1B status in the U.S. who would need to get an H-1B visa to return.  A person in this situation shouldn’t leave the U.S. while the entry ban is in effect.

The ban exempts those coming to work in the U.S. in jobs:

    •  essential to the food supply chain;
    •  involved with the provision of medical care to individuals who have contracted COVID-19 and are currently hospitalized;
    • involved with the provision of medical research at United States facilities to help the United States combat COVID-19;
    • necessary to facilitate the immediate and continued economic recovery of the United States;
    • critical to the defense, law enforcement, diplomacy, or national security of the U.S.

The administration estimates that  525,000 nonimmigrant workers will be kept out of the U.S. during the remainder of 2020 as a result of the entry ban.  It has been opposed by a wide range of businesses, as well as by the U.S. Chamber of Commerce  which stated that

Restrictive changes to our nation’s immigration system will push investment and economic activity abroad, slow growth, and reduce job creation.

The proclamation also extends through December 31, 2020 the prior April 22nd proclamation suspending entry of most immigrants to the U.S, but adds an additional exemption to that ban, to protect immigrant children who would “age-out” of their ability to immigrate if they were not allowed to enter before their 21st birthdays.

In addition, the new proclamation sends worrisome signals that the administration is considering putting restrictions on H-1B nonimmigrant visa professionals who are already in the U.S., and attacking the status of immigrants who have gotten permanent residency through their professional employment, as well as investigating employers who have petitioned for H-1B workers.

Overall, the proclamation makes clear that the administration is seizing the  economic damage caused by the coronavirus pandemic to enact sweeping immigration restrictions it has long wanted that members of Congress believe would harm the U.S. economy and have refused to advance.

This end-run around Congress harms both the affected individuals and their families, as well as their employers and the U.S. economy as a whole.   Despite the pandemic, the U.S.  and Maine still need immigrants.   The administration’s anti-immigrant animus is bad for the country.