The Real Threat to the US Economy is Trump’s Proclamation, Not the Nonimmigrant Workers it Bans

Published: 06/29/2020


The Proclamation does not apply to: anyone who was inside the United States on June 24, 2020, individuals who are outside the United States and have a nonimmigrant visa or other official immigration document (such as a transportation letter, an appropriate boarding foil, or an advance parole document) that is valid on June 24, 2020, Lawful permanent residents of the United States (green card holders), spouses and children of U.S. citizens, individuals seeking to enter the United States to provide temporary labor or essential to the United States food supply chain; and anyone whose entry would be in the national interest as determined by the Departments of Homeland Security and State. CBP headquarters has confirmed that Canadians entering as H, L or J nonimmigrants are exempt from the proclamation.

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The Proclamation also seems to leave open the door for other measures aimed at restricting the entry of certain categories of immigrants, or even taking action against individuals who have already been admitted. Section 5(b) of the Proclamation states that: “The Secretary of Labor shall, in consultation with the Secretary of Homeland Security, as soon as practicable, and consistent with applicable law, consider promulgating regulations or take other appropriate action to ensure that the presence in the United States of aliens who have been admitted or otherwise provided a benefit, or who are seeking admission or a benefit, pursuant to an EB-2 or EB-3 immigrant visa or an H-1B nonimmigrant visa does not disadvantage United States workers in violation of section 212(a)(5)(A) or (n)(1) of the INA (8 U.S.C. 1182(a)(5)(A) or (n)(1))”.  INA 212(a)(5) renders a foreign national who seeks to enter the United States to perform skilled or unskilled labor is inadmissible unless it has determined that there are not a sufficient number of US workers who are qualified for the same job and the employment of such foreign nationals will not affect the wages and working conditions of US workers. Most foreign nationals have already received labor certifications after their employers unsuccessfully conducted a recruitment of U.S. workers in the labor market.   Though this provision does not have any present effect, it seems to enable the administration to take further actions to limit the number of immigrant visa workers in the United States. One could even imagine the provision being invoked to rescind some individuals’ approved labor certifications and I-140 visa petitions, should the administration decide to do so in the future. This would have a devastating impact on the hundreds of thousands of people born in India who have been waiting for green cards in the EB-2 and EB-3 backlogs. Of course, such an action would be challenged in court since INA 204(j) has specifically allowed adjustment of status applicants whose applications have been pending for more than 180 days to “port” to new employers and still keep intact their labor certifications and I-140 visa petitions. Thus, there are provisions in the INA that contemplate that once the labor market has been tested, the test need not be repeated over and over again, even if the foreign national’s green card has been delayed due to  EB-2 and EB-3 backlogs.

Another insidious provision in the Proclamation, section 4(c)(ii), directs the DHS consistent with applicable law to “prevent certain aliens who have final orders of removal; who are inadmissible or deportable from the United States; or who have been arrested for, charged with, or convicted of a criminal offense in the United States, from obtaining eligibility to work in the United States.” While there are existing provisions in the INA that deem foreign nationals inadmissible for all of the above reasons, one who has been charged or arrested of a criminal offense should not be deprived of eligibility to work in the United States if the charges were dismissed or proved baseless, and the foreign national did not admit to the essential elements of a crime that would render him/her inadmissible.

The Proclamation stands to have a devastating impact on individuals in a variety of scenarios.  Due to numerous travel restrictions that have been put in place as a result of COVID-19, many individuals may have left the United States with a valid visa that has expired while that have been trapped outside the country. Under the new Proclamation, these individuals would not be able to reenter the United States. Family members of a principal visa holder are likely to be similarly impacted. One such situation arises when a principal visa holder was in the United States on the effective date of the Proclamation, but has dependent family members who are currently outside the U.S. without a valid visa. Because individuals who were inside the United States on June 24th, 2020 are exempt from the proclamation, David Isaacson is of the opinion that  family members of an individual who is in the United States are not “accompanying or following to join” an individual whose entry is suspended. Thus, spouses and children of an individual who is exempt from the Proclamation should arguably be able to reenter the United States, but one does not have any faith whether Trump’s State Department will agree with this perfectly reasonable interpretation. Indeed, although the proclamation clearly states that it will not apply to one who was present in the United States on June 24, 2020, the State Department seems to be indicating on Twitter that if such a person leaves, a visa will not be issued during the validity of the proclamation. This seems to be inconsistent with a plain reading of Section 3(i) that states that the proclamation will apply to an individual who “is outside the United States on the effective date of this proclamation.”

The situation is more complicated when reversed, however, with a principal visa holder, for example an H-1B, abroad and his/her H-4 spouse is in the United States. It is unclear how the Proclamation would apply to the H-4 spouse in this situation. Even if the H-4 spouse currently is in valid status,they would only be able to remain in the United States for a limited period of time before being deemed to be in violation of their status.

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