New York, April 23 "Drastic" and "damaging" is how a top US immigration attorney is describing Donald Trump's latest executive order, which takes a sledgehammer to the entry of immigrants "who present risk to the US labour market" and goes into effect from midnight on April 23.
The executive order does not apply to H1B workers in the United States.
The executive order applies to three categories of "aliens". It bans those who are outside the United States on the effective date of the order, which means 11:59 pm on April 23, those who do not have an immigrant visa that is valid on the effective date and those who do not have an official travel document other than a visa, such as an advance parole document.
With consulates closed, almost all visa processing by the State Department has been suspended for weeks anyway.
"If you have been sponsored for a green card through a family member, you're now going to be banned for 60 days, unless you are a spouse or minor child of a US citizen," Cyrus Mehta, New York based US immigration attorney, told IANS.
"If you are the spouse or minor child of a green card holder, you're banned. If you are the adult son or daughter of a US citizen or adult single son or daughter of a green card holder, you're banned. If you are the sibling of a US citizen, and you waited 10 plus years to come in and you are still waiting for a visa interview at a consular post, you're now banned."
Called "Proclamation Suspending Entry of Immigrants Who Present Risk to the US Labor Market During the Economic Recovery Following the COVID-19 Outbreak," Trump's latest executive order with a 16 word headline comes with a 60 day sunset clause, for now.
Trump said his decision is essential to help Americans get back to work in an economy ripped apart by the coronavirus.
"This will ensure that unemployed Americans of all backgrounds will be first in line for jobs as our economy reopens," Trump said.
"If you read the fine print, on day 50 of the 60 day period, the President can once again make an assessment and decide whether to continue with it," Mehta explained.
The few exemptions that exist now are for spouses and minor children of US citizens, people coming on an immigrant visa as a physician, nurse or other health care professional to perform medical research related to COVID-19.
The order also exempts people approved under the EB5 immigrant investor program who have invested more than a million dollars to get a foothold in the US.
"On the other hand, the spouse of a green card holder or parent of a US citizen has been banned," says Mehta. He says Trump's use of authority under Section 212F of the Immigration Act is a standout case in American history.
"There's a lot of fear and panic," Mehta says, among the immigrant community over the last three years and it's just spiralled in the last few days since Trump signalled that he will be clamping down further.
"That hostility can be felt. Not just by immigrants, but even by employers or employees," Mehta said.
The executive order frames America's problem as a "labor market supply" issue. "Existing immigrant visa processing protections are inadequate for recovery from the COVID-19 outbreak," the order reads.
Trump ran in 2016 on promising to crack down on immigration, making the case that foreign workers compete with Americans for jobs and drive down wages.