Trump’s Temporary Ban on Immigration amid COVID19 Targets Green Cards, not H1B and Other Visas

President Trump’s tweet about temporary suspension of immigration into the United States, on April 20, sent jitters to immigrant communities amid the COVID19 pandemic. After critics labeled it as a hysterical reaction to the COVID19 impact that has stripped the US economy of over 20 million jobs, Trump dispersed the clouds of misgivings and fears around his ‘vague’ announcement on Twitter during a White House press briefing yesterday.

The new executive order temporarily banning immigration into the US as a means to save American jobs during the COVID19 crisis will apply to the issuance of new green cards for 60 days. He said, “The temporary suspension will be in effect for 60 days, after which the need for any extension or modification will be evaluated by me and a group of people, based on economic conditions then,” at the White House briefing on Tuesday.

Trump’s sudden announcement about suspension of immigration was felt just like a bolt out of the blue. It pressed the panic button for laid-off H1B visa holders in the US and H1B professionals stuck in lockdown across India. Many of those who are breathlessly waiting for India’s lifting of COVID19 travel restrictions hit Google and social media forums trying to know whether they are eligible for repatriation flights from India to USA. Indian nationals on H1B visa, whom the impact of COVID19 on the American economy left unemployed, started pleading with the Indian Embassy in USA and the Ministry of External Affairs India for evacuation from the US, under the fear of accruing unlawful visa overstay.

Much to the relief of the H1B community, the US President excluded temporary visa holders from the grip of the upcoming executive order banning immigration for 60 days or more. An official close to the Trump administration said (on condition of anonymity) that foreign nationals seeking employment based green cards and relatives of green card holders will be in the loop of the temporary ban on immigration. US citizens of foreign origin planning to bring their immediate family members to the country are, most probably, exempted from the immigration suspension, according to the official.

Alongside H1B visa, other temporary US visas including E2 for a category of investors, B1 for business visit, B2 for foreign tourists, and L1 visas for employees of foreign companies are also immune to President Trump’s temporary ban on immigration amid the COVID19 pandemic. However, immigration analysts opine that the ‘Trump’ card may flip over in the current volatile situation.

Trump’s supporters of stringent immigration policies said that President could have taken this opportunity to cut the number of foreign workers on H2B visa for seasonal jobs in the US. They called the temporary suspension of immigration ineffective and insubstantial, as all visa processing services have been suspended for weeks. Besides, the temporary ban on issuance of green cards will only increase the wait time for green card applicants by 60 days or more.

The US Tech Workers, an anti-immigration body advocating for Americans’ rights to dignified employment, described Trump’s temporary ban on immigration as a do-nothing immigration moratorium. They interpreted it in other words, “Feel free to come into America & take these American jobs so long as you will work for cheaper & remain loyal to the employer. Don’t worry about the 60 days temporary green card suspension. That’ll be lifted in no time & won’t affect you.”

According to New York Times, Trump softened his call for temporary suspension of immigration for guest visa programs under the pressure exerted by business groups from different industries where H1B and H2B workers are employed. Notably, there are Indian American CEOs and business honchos in Trump’s Great American Economy Revival Industry Groups that he recently formed to make the US economy overcome the COVID19 impact.

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