Trump's Latest Immigration Ban Takes Effect Today, Targeting Green Card Seekers

A line of people waiting outside the federal immigration court on Olive Street in downtown Los Angeles in October 2018. (Leslie Berestein Rojas/LAist)

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At 78, Jose Amaya is long retired from working construction and is trying to stay healthy at home in Palmdale. But diabetes has slowed him down, and his failing eyesight requires surgery.

He petitioned for his eldest son, 58, to obtain legal permanent residency so he could move to the U.S. from Mexico and take care of him. But President Trump's temporary ban on most green card seekers during the pandemic, which takes effect today, has thrown the father and son's plan into disarray.

Amaya first heard learned of the forthcoming ban on Tuesday, after Trump tweeted that he would "temporarily suspend immigration into the United States" with an executive order.

Earlier this week, Amaya told us he was fearful his son might not be able to join him, but he held out hope. Now he knows his family will be affected: Trump's order bars most would-be immigrants sponsored by relatives in the U.S., except for the spouses and minor children of U.S. citizens. Amaya is less hopefull than he was two days ago.

"This is my fear, that now we won't be able to do anything," Amaya said in Spanish.

BIG IMPACT IN SOUTHERN CALIFORNIA

The executive order signed by Trump this week will have an impact on thousands of households in Southern California who've sponsored relatives to come to the U.S. with green cards. The ban is set to last for 60 days, and could be extended.

Trump has said he is temporarily banning many of these green card applicants so they don't pose a threat to American workers. At the same time, he has exempted large categories of workers whom his administration considers "essential" to fighting COVID-19 including doctors, nurses and medical researchers.

Also exempted are wealthy immigrant investors who put money into the EB-5 program, which allows foreigners to obtain immigrant visas if they invest a minimum of $900,000 in a job-creating business project, often real estate development.

Meanwhile, the Trump administration has long sought to eliminate most categories of family-based visas.

Tiffany Panlilio, a legal advocate at Asian Americans Advancing Justice in Los Angeles, said her low-wage clients have spent months if not years working to pay green card processing fees for their loved ones.

"This just creates another extra pressure and an extra worry for a time where we're already very anxious about going about our daily lives," Panlilo said.

The big fear, she said, is that the order doesn't end after 60 days and that Trump will extend it. Some of Panlilio's clients have already been waiting decades to come to the U.S. legally see their family members in person again.

Amaya, in Palmdale, said he can't drive and needs help getting to the doctor. He has another son here, he said, but he travels often and can't provide daily support. He's still hoping his eldest son will be able to move in with him permanently.

"I'll have no choice but to wait," Amaya said, "wait and see if this ends, no?"