On April 22nd, 2020, President Trump signed an executive order to place a temporary suspension on immigration to the U.S. due to the COVID-19 outbreak.
Quoted from one of his daily White House briefings, Trump said, “It would be wrong and unjust for Americans laid off by the virus to be replaced with new immigrants—labor flown in from abroad.” However, when digging deeper into the facts of his travel ban, Trump’s bark is worse than his bite.
What Trump’s Travel Ban Really Enforces
Rather than a sweeping immigration ban like Trump touted, here’s a breakdown of what the executive order really enforces:
The issuance of green cards are halted for a 60-day period.
The travel ban only applies to individuals who are outside of the U.S., who do not have an immigrant visa, or who don’t have official travel documents (other than a visa)
There are numerous exceptions for health care professionals, immigrants who already reside in the U.S., and immigrants who are applying for temporary visa.
Unlike his rants on Twitter that made his COVID-19 travel ban sound like he was going to shut down all of immigration, his orders only affect a very limited part of the process. In terms of overseas processing, the new ban will make an impact, but the duration of 60 days comes at a time when consulates are not doing business as usual (seasonal timeframes that mark a slower processing period already).
Although Trump’s new travel ban is only a threat to the larger system, there are fears that he may extend the order in the future.
How Long Could a Travel Ban Extension Be?
Once again, the current travel ban only lasts for 60 days, but the executive order leaves plenty of room for President Trump to extend the limitations or make changes to existing guidelines as he sees fit.
As of now, the Secretaries of Labor, Homeland Security, and the Secretary of State are in charge of monitoring nonimmigrant programs and make suggestions to President Trump on any additional measures he can take to help rebuild the U.S. economy. Overall, that seems to be the driving force for such restrictions in the first place, and as the country heals from the economic damage of COVID-19, it will be interesting to see what changes unfold—or what excuses the current administration bemoans to enact such stipulations.
On May 5th, 2020, the White House announced plans to wind down the Coronavirus Task Force, transferring pandemic response over to Federal agencies at the end of May or beginning of June. Only time will tell what new measures arrive, but hopefully, the new ban is just a short term act to appease Trump’s political base.