Immigrant visa ban extended
President Donald J. Trump has temporarily suspended the entry of certain foreign workers to the United States until Dec. 31, 2020, supposedly to protect American workers suffering due to the COVID-19 pandemic.
In a proclamation Trump signed Monday, the administration extended a ban on green cards issued outside the United States until the end of the year and added many temporary work visas to the freeze such as H-1B or H-2B visas, which are given to temporary workers performing services or labor of a temporary or seasonal nature; L visas for intra-company transferees, and J visas given to physicians, professors, scholars, teachers, and exchange visitors.
While the temporary suspension is set to expire on Dec. 31, it may be continued as needed. “Within 30 days of June 24, 2020, and every 60 days thereafter while this proclamation is in effect, the Secretary of Homeland Security shall, in consultation with the Secretary of State and the Secretary of Labor, recommend any modifications as may be necessary,” the proclamation states.
The administration describes the move as a way to help many unemployed Americans, who lost their jobs due to the COVID-19 pandemic. “The overall unemployment rate in the United States nearly quadrupled between February and May of 2020, producing some of the most extreme unemployment ever recorded by the Bureau of Labor Statistics. While the May rate of 13.3% reflected a marked decline from April, millions of Americans remain out of work,” the proclamation states.
Who are affected?
The suspension and limitation on entry only apply to foreigners who are outside the U.S., or who do not have non-immigrant visas valid on June 22, 2020, the effective date of proclamation.
The suspension also applies to foreigners who do not have an official travel document other than a visa (such as a transportation letter, an appropriate boarding foil, or an advance parole document) that is valid on June 22, 2020, or issued on any date after, that permit them to travel to the U.S. and seek entry or admission.
Exempted from the suspension and limitation are U.S. lawful permanent residents, and any foreigner who is the spouse or a child of a U.S. citizen.
The suspension and limitation also do not apply to foreigners seeking to enter the U.S. to provide temporary labor or services essential to the U.S. food supply chain; and foreigners whose entry would be in the national interest, as determined by the secretary of State or secretary of Homeland Security.
Foreigners who circumvent the application through fraud, willful misrepresentation, or illegal entry will be deemed a priority for removal by the Department of Homeland Security.
The administration clarified that individuals can still seek asylum, refugee status, withholding of removal, or protection under the Convention Against Torture and Other Cruel, Inhuman or Degrading Treatment or Punishment, consistent with the laws of the United States..
Protecting American workers
The proclamation noted that under ordinary circumstances, temporary worker programs can provide benefits to the economy, but that under the extraordinary circumstances of the economic contraction due to the pandemic, certain nonimmigrant employment visa programs pose an “unusual threat” to the employment of American workers.
Trump also extended the immigration ban he imposed last April 22, putting a hold on green cards, to protect American workers amid the coronavirus outbreak. The proclamation states that this move will benefit historically disadvantaged groups, including African Americans and other minorities, those without a college degree, and persons with disabilities.
In an earlier interview, CNMI Labor Secretary Vicky Benavente said that the department is working to match people in the right jobs, and do training for the local community, especially with the exodus of workers due to the pandemic.
“We, as the Department of Labor, are trying to employ people in the jobs that are suited for them. We will help our citizens retrain to get the skills they need, especially in this time. The economy is changing, industries are changing. My focus is, yes, if you need to get a job, I’m going to help you.”
Benavente, however, also recognized the role foreign workers play in the CNMI, adding that they are a critical component of the CNMI economy.
“Without foreign workers, we wouldn’t have much of an economy. So we’re going to balance both the needs of our people, with the needs of our employers,” she added. (With AP)