Legal immigration into the United States has become even more difficult due to the current COVID-19 pandemic. COVID-19 has exacerbated issues while the government attempts to stop legal immigration by separating parents from children and rolling out new testing guidelines. It helps to understand how immigration has changed due to COVID-19 and what to expect in the near future.
Trump’s New Immigration Order
The Trump administration has issued orders calling for a significant cutback on immigration for anyone who is over or nearly 21 years old. The proclamation placed adult children who are over or nearly 21 years old into a new category for immigration assistance. The administration has issued the order for 60 days, but aides in the White House have said that the administration plans to extend this policy. Since this policy could be extended for some time, a class action suit has been filed to block it in court. That suit has been dismissed once, and it has been brought back to court a second time with help from numerous entities.
How Does the Policy Separate Parents and Children?
The new adult child visa policy has come under fire, and a second-class action lawsuit has been filed in federal court challenging the Trump administration’s order. Lawyers have noted that the policy puts adult children into a non-priority category where visas will be issued more slowly. Attorneys for the plaintiffs claim that the waiting period for a new visa under this program could take up to 76 years. This waiting period amounts to a lifelong situation where children suffer forced separation from their families. An observer estimates that 50,000 people could be impacted during the 60-day period of the order.
In some cases, children cannot be brought to America legally, even if parents had a standing agreement with U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE). Other families may have children in the U.S. awaiting visas, and they could be moved to a holding facility while they wait. Disturbingly, immigrants could die in holding centers while waiting for visas because of the spread of COVID-19.
What are the Problems with COVID-19 Testing and Immigration Assistance?
The Trump administration has issued other rules that impact the spread of COVID-19 and the health status of immigrants throughout the country. The new public charge rule was created to penalize immigrants who used services such as Medicaid. Since these immigrants would be penalized, they are afraid to update or change their immigration status. Someone who made progress toward citizenship may falter or even lose their green card or visa. Immigration enforcement has increased during the pandemic, and immigrants are often afraid to leave the house, seek medical attention, or even speak with an advocate. Lawyers can only do so much if they cannot speak to their clients.
While the Trump administration allowed for COVID-19 testing among immigrants, there was mass confusion about how they could access services. Frightened immigrants often chose to avoid medical care or testing. This may have caused an uptick in COVID-19 cases among the immigrant population. No matter how much doctors and nurses hope to assure immigrants that they are safe when seeking medical treatment, immigrants cannot be sure when ICE agents will show up to potentially send them to a holding facility or deport them.
Aggravating Circumstances for Immigrants
Immigrant families may be put in bad situations due to the Coronavirus Aid, Relief, and Economic Security (CARES) Act funding being denied for undocumented individuals or those using an Individual Taxpayer Identification Number (ITIN) to file taxes. The rule states that any household with someone using an ITIN or who may be undocumented cannot receive funding. Immigrants have been disproportionately impacted by shutdowns in the wake of the COVID-19 pandemic, and they are not receiving any funding to help their families survive.
Immigrants in need of business visas, family-based visas, asylum assistance, employment-based visas, and labor certifications often do not feel free to visit their attorneys. Abused women and children may not feel free to file abuse petitions and family members who should be allowed to stay in America may be taken from their home until their visas are approved. These families simply do not have the financial resources to fight court battles with U.S. immigration authorities.
How are Families Being Impacted?
Given the breadth and application of the administration’s immigration orders, families could be hit with multiple immigration cases. If a child is older or nearly 21 years old, he or she could be deported or moved to a holding facility while awaiting a visa. A parent who requires medical treatment or COVID-19 testing could be penalized for using public services, and the family may need to file for public assistance because everyone is out of work. In all, an entire family could be caught up in the immigration system for different reasons. An adult child who finally receives a visa may come home to relatives who have died or were deported.
Philadelphia Immigration Lawyers at Surin & Griffin, P.C. Help Those Seeking Immigration Assistance
Reach out to our Philadelphia immigration lawyers at Surin & Griffin, P.C. when you need assistance with immigration documentation, status updates, and hearings. Call us at 215-925-4435 or contact us online for an initial consultation. Located in Philadelphia, we assist clients with immigration matters throughout Pennsylvania and nationwide.