US President Donald Trump has signed an executive order to postpone the issuance of individual green cards for a period.
The measure, which has a variety of exemptions, is to last 60 days and could then be extended, he said. Mr. Trump claims the order is intended to secure jobs for American workers in a coronavirus-pummeled economy. Critics have accused him of using the pandemic as a shield in an election year to push through long-awaited hardline immigration policies.
“This will ensure that unemployed Americans of all backgrounds are first in line for jobs when our economy reopens,” said Mr. Trump during the White House coronavirus briefing on Wednesday. It is hoped that the bill would eliminate the custom of green card holders supporting their extended families for permanent residency in the United States, which the president calls chain migration.
But it does allow an exception for spouses of American citizens and unmarried children under the age of 21. The example is the hundreds of thousands of temporary guest visas issued annually through the H-1B visa system for applicants such as agricultural laborers and technical workers.
The order also suspends the Diversity Visa Lottery, which issues approximately 50,000 green cards a year. The hundreds of thousands of green card applicants who already live and work in the US, and those seeking admission to work as physicians, nurses, or other healthcare professionals, are also exempted. The pandemic blunted the order’s immediate impact because virtually all state department visa processing was suspended for weeks with consulates closed.
Nevertheless, Mr. Trump’s order could bar more than 20,000 applicants a month from having a green card, according to the Washington-based Migration Policy Institute. Omar Jadwat, head of the Immigrants’ Rights Project for the American Civil Liberties Union, said the strategy “would bring real pain to families and employers around the world.”
The step by the president would likely face legal challenges.
The president says he is seeking to preserve American employment.
About 20 million people lost their jobs in the wake of the coronavirus epidemic, and the president said the government had a “solemn obligation” to get them back to work.
Mr. Trump, a Republican, has come into office partially because of his hardline immigration policy and has made the issue central to his presidency. He is predicted to be opposed in November’s election by former Vice-President Joe Biden, a Democrat who supports immigration even more.