New Immigration Limits Cause Anxiety in Families and Businesses

New Immigration Limits Cause Anxiety in Families and Businesses

Originally published by The New York Times

Families that have waited years to be reunited, businesses that rely on foreign workers, universities that recruit international students with the promise of high-paying American jobs — all of their plans faced new uncertainty on Tuesday as the Trump administration announced new temporary restrictions on permanent residency in the United States.

President Trump signaled that a 60-day ban on most green cards, which could be imposed as early as Wednesday, was intended to protect work opportunities for the millions of Americans who have lost their jobs in the coronavirus pandemic. But, if it is extended, its impact on businesses and families could be much broader.

The new policy would close the doors to thousands of people hoping to enter the United States or lay down permanent roots in the country through long-term work or family connections — at least temporarily.

“It’s really worrying news,” said Elsa Ramos, whose 22-year-old son, Eder, is in Honduras, waiting for a green card that would allow him to join his parents and sister in the United States. They are among many families and employers who have spent thousands of dollars on years of legal work and are now on hold.


“Imagine the excitement that you have that your son is on his way into the country and then Trump destroys that. It’s really hard,” Ms. Ramos said.

Mr. Ramos applied for residency through his father, a legal permanent resident who lives in Philadelphia. His application had already been mired in months of unexpected delays because of the extra reviews applied to green card applications since Mr. Trump took office.

Living alone in the small house the family left behind, which is in a dangerous neighborhood, her son is vulnerable to exploitation by gangs because of his connections to the United States, Ms. Ramos said. But because his father is not a United States citizen, he would most likely be ineligible to enter the country under the planned new order.

“He’s desperate and sad. He told me, ‘I never thought I would be stuck here for so long,’” Ms. Ramos said.

Newly tightened policies have already imposed drastic limits on immigration in recent months, all but ending prospects of asylum for most people fleeing troubled situations in their home countries, and imposing higher fees, added scrutiny and longer wait times onto those pursuing visas.

The announcement that, amid a pandemic, Mr. Trump planned to impose a temporary block on most permanent residency applications opened the door to a situation with few parallels, in which almost no level of family connection, education or resources guarantees the right to immigrate to the United States — though it was not clear for how long.

Administration officials said the pause would be re-evaluated after 60 days, and Mr. Trump said he could extend the ban “based on economic conditions at the time.”

Of the roughly one million green cards that were issued in 2019, nearly two-thirds of applicants, like Mr. Ramos, were granted on family-based petitions for permanent residency in the United States. The spouses and children of American citizens would still be eligible for green cards under the new policy, but their parents would not, nor would the family members of current legal permanent residents who do not hold citizenship.

About 50,000 permanent resident slots a year, issued in a lottery aimed at diversifying the immigrant population, would also be blocked under the new policy.

A smaller, yet economically important group of immigrants who also could be severely affected are those who apply for green cards through employers. The science, technology and engineering industries rely heavily on those petitions.

Such employers would still be able to hire foreign workers on a temporary basis, for instance through H1-B visas, but the ability to offer permanent resident status is often seen as crucial to recruiting highly sought-after workers with specialized skills who demand stability for themselves and their families.

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