Legal Perspectives: Green Card Entries Banned by Pres. Trump, with Few Exceptions

President Trump signed a presidential proclamation on Wednesday suspending entry to the country for some potential immigrants to the United States for at least 60 days. The proclamation took effect at 11:59p on Thursday, with the stated purpose being to protect the jobs of U.S. citizens in a labor market recovering from COVID-19 and related layoffs.


NPR reports that the proclamation applies to individuals outside of the United States and seeking green card visas to immigrate to the country, unless these individuals are spouses or children under 21 of U.S. citizens. Immigrants seeking entry to the United States in order to provide health care services or medical researchers are also exempt from the ban.


The president warned that the ban on green card entries was coming in a Tweet posted late Monday. Cornell Law professor Stephen Yale-Loehr publicly commented on the possibility in a press release on Tuesday afternoon.


On Monday, President Trump said in a tweet that he would sign an executive order temporarily suspending immigration to the United States in the midst of the coronavirus outbreak. The executive order is anticipated to include halting new green cards and work visas.


Stephen Yale-Loehr, professor of immigration law at Cornell Law School, is an expert on immigration and asylum law in the United States. He says that the executive order will almost certainly face legal challenges:


“An executive order suspending all immigration into the United States is outrageous and likely unconstitutional. It is one thing to suspend immigration for certain categories of people, such as terrorists. It is quite another to suspend all immigration. We have never done that before, even during world wars. Litigation is sure to challenge any such executive order.”


Ian Kysel, visiting assistant clinical professor of law at Cornell Law School, is co-founder and director of the International Migrants Bill of Rights Initiative and says that the proposed executive order would violate basic international human rights law:


“President Trump has announced (without any detail) that he will unilaterally seek to end immigration to the U.S. to fight the ‘invisible enemy’ (presumably COVID-19). Such an action would have devastating consequences for families, universities, businesses, and communities around the country.


“Even more than doubling-down on an apparently xenophobic effort to dismantle the U.S. immigration system, a blanket ban unmoored from public health imperatives violates basic international human rights law obligations. Binding treaties that the U.S. helped draft prohibit such indiscriminate acts of political theater, including because they prevent refugees from receiving sanctuary and tear families apart.”


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