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Update regarding President Trump’s expected Executive Order temporarily suspending immigration into U.S.

President Donald Trump announced late Monday night on Twitter he was planning to “temporarily suspend” all immigration into the United States because of the coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic.

“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!” Trump’s Tweet read.

The exact nature of the Executive Order is yet to be determined as CNN reported earlier Tuesday that “officials were still working” on a draft and the administration hopes to have the final proclamation “completed in the next few days for Trump to sign.”

CNN’s report added that the order is expected to be “a ‘temporary 120 days’ or so halt on ‘some’ work visas to mitigate some of the unemployment concerns related to the pandemic.” However, the specific language and details of the EO have not been finalized.

The legal precedent Trump will use to issue the order remains unclear, but the president’s ability to suspend “all” immigration into the country arguably stems from Section 212(f) of the Immigration and Nationality Act, which grants broad authority to suspend entry of foreign nationals into the U.S. Specifically, it reads:

“Whenever the President finds that the entry of any aliens or of any class of aliens into the United States would be detrimental to the interests of the United States, he may by proclamation, and for such period as he shall deem necessary, suspend the entry of all aliens or any class of aliens as immigrants or nonimmigrants, or impose on the entry of aliens any restrictions he may deem to be appropriate.”

This provision of law does not, however, provide the president with the authority to restrict immigrant applications from within the U.S., and it is therefore speculated that the Executive Order would not impact immigration processes for individuals already within the U.S. — meaning individuals and companies should still be able to file applications for changes of status, extensions of stay and adjustment of status to lawful permanent residence.

Those who are outside the U.S. are already facing challenges entering the U.S. due to closure of the U.S. Consulates and U.S. borders. Specifically, Trump previously closed the U.S. borders with Canada and Mexico in mid-March for “non-essential” travel because of the coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic. The Department of State has also already suspended routine visa services at all U.S. Embassies and Consulates worldwide. Therefore, with the restrictions and closures already in place, the impact of a new Executive Order suspending immigration into the U.S. may not change the status quo.

The EO is expected to face legal challenges in federal court. The order will likely also include multiple exemptions and exceptions.

Garfinkel Immigration Law Firm continues to monitor the situation closely and will alert clients as the situation evolves. Our attorneys are actively identifying specifically impacted cases and advising our clients accordingly.

As always, do not hesitate to contact the Firm by phone at 704-442-8000 or via email with any questions or concerns.

Additional details about the coronavirus’ impact on immigration-related matters can be found here. Please sign up for our client alerts and follow us on social media to receive the most up-to-date information.

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