Some Good Immigration News During the Pandemic

This week I’m going to be talking about some positive things, and giving people some realistic perspective on the executive order that came out from the President last week.

I say realistic because as I try to keep to reminding people: you have to be careful what you read, and listen to.

Fear sells; and fear drives the media more and more in the post 9.11 era. It’s just a fact.

Good things are happening all the time. Despite what you have been hearing since Trump got elected , the majority of our outcomes in immigration — at our law firm — have been positive. In the drawer next to me as I write this there are three work permits and a green card that have all arrived at my office in the past week.

I want to remind people that HOPE is our most important weapon against fear and bad news.

On the Trump Executive Order On Immigration:

On April 20th, Donald Trump tweeted: ” I will be signing an Executive Order to temporarily suspend immigration into the United States!”

Two days later he said this order would only apply to people outside the US seeking permanent residence – or green card applicants. AND there are numerous exceptions, namely marriage to US citizens, just to start. (MORE BELOW)

Since March 20, 2020,  for the most part the US embassies and consular posts have been suspending services anyway. An announcement that they are no longer processing certain documents or cases is really just telling us something that we knew already. The State Department will continue to handle applications for work visas in fields that are considered essential, obvious examples being health services and agriculture.

We know the borders are closed between Canada, the US, and Mexico for all non-essential travel until at least late May. And we know about restrictions on the entry of folks flying into the US.

But as I keep pointing out, Immigration is processing applications.  USCIS is receiving applications and they are approving cases for all kinds of benefits — visa extensions, visa renewals, changes of status, work authorizations — and processing into the system both green card and citizenship applications.

So any kind of message you are hearing that says immigration has been stopped, is simply not true. There is not a complete stop or ban or halt of immigration into the US.

So what is happening in Immigration right now?

Limited Face To Face Services

There are still very limited in person USCIS services currently and into May. This includes green card interviews, citizenship interviews, fingerprints and biometrics.  But fingerprints and biometrics rules have been waived in renewals, resulting in faster turnarounds.

Work Permit Renewals Have Been Much Faster

As indicated above, USCIS is waiving fingerprints and biometrics on work authorization renewals which has interestingly led to much faster processing. In as little as 6 to 18 days in some cases!

Green card applications overseas – immigrant visa applications – are on a 60 day halt, but there are EXCEPTIONS

  1. People who are married to US residents.
  2. Minor children of US citizens.
  3. Anyone filing a green card application in the United States – what we call adjustment of status — nothing to do with the executive order.
  4. So people who are in the process of getting a green card – through adjustment of status – the executive order has no bearing on you.
  5. Citizenship is not affected at all.
  6. EB5 is not impacted.
  7. None of the temporary visas from overseas are impacted: H1B, F-1 student visas, B1/B2 visitors, etc. — these are all subject to “normal” processing.

Immigration plans to reopen some services in May and June.

With reduced capacity and enforcement of social distancing, masks, and the like.

Immigration hasn’t stopped

Immigration is still processing applications. They are receiving applications and they are approving applications for all kinds of cases.

Trump’s wording was:

“In light of the attack from the Invisible Enemy, as well as the need to protect the jobs of our GREAT American Citizens, I will be signing an Executive Order to temporarily suspend immigration into the United States!”

People started panicking, because the media ran with it. Of course it’s hard for some media to resist when President Trump comes out with strongly worded tweets like this.

But here’s what you should know: whenever there is an executive order like this, advocacy groups and private attorneys decide if litigation is appropriate, and frequently it is appropriate, so there are checks and balances in play. All the way up to the Supreme Court if necessary. Frequently during the Trump era, federal courts have stopped actions that the current administration tried to implement.

Remember the language here is temporary. It’s a very important word.

The bottom line? My law firm -like thousands of others- is processing visa applications, and green card applications right now. I’m getting good news in the mail all the time. That’s REAL LIFE.

Winning deportation cases, getting visas, getting green cards.

I’ve been hearing “the sky is going to fall” regarding immigration law since I started doing this a quarter century ago. Since President Bill Clinton signed the Illegal Immigration Reform and Immigrant Responsibility Act which destroyed pre-existing laws. Back then, the old time lawyers were saying “it’s all over” and immigration is done.  Nearly 25 years later, we are still here. We are going to survive the Corona Virus and it’s going to make us stronger as people, and as Americans, and globally, and the same goes with immigration.

Immigrants are vital. Immigration is necessary during the pandemic, and otherwise. Health care and tech are keeping the United States going right now. Both services are populated by significant numbers of immigrants.

We’ve been successfully representing immigrants for a quarter century and we need them now more than ever.

They are a part of the long term and historical fabric of the US, and will continue to be in the future.




Written by: Harlan York

Immigration Attorney Harlan York is Former Chair, Immigration Section, NJ State Bar Association and Former Co-Chair, NY State Bar Association CFLS Immigration Committee. Mr. York appeared on National Television on CBS This Morning with Charlie Rose and Primer Impacto on Univision, as well as Telemundo, NBC, and PBS. He was honored as First Ever Immigration Lawyer of The Year in NJ by Best Lawyers.

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