Trump's Latest Immigration Bans Are Supposed To Last Through End Of Year, But Impact Could Last Much Longer
President Trump this week shut down much of the immigration system for the rest of the year, extending and expanding restrictions on legal immigration to the U.S. in a stated attempt to prevent foreign workers from taking American jobs during the pandemic.
Trump issued a proclamation Monday that expands and extends restrictions on legal immigration first set in place in April. At the time, he issued a 60-day ban on most would-be immigrants sponsored for legal residency by relatives in the U.S., except for the spouses and minor children of U.S. citizens. That ban was set to expire this week.
His new proclamation continues to bar these green card seekers, and places new restrictions on several types of non-immigrant work visas.
The impact of these bans on certain work visa categories and extended restrictions on green cards — now both set to last until the end of the year — will reverberate past their expiration dates, immigrant rights groups in Southern California predict.
"Visa appointments are being put on hold," said Jose Serrano, who works with immigrants and refugees at the Garden Grove office of the nonprofit World Relief. "And therefore you have a longer backlog of cases."
Health records and background checks also will expire during the bans, creating even more delays and adding costs for applicants, Serrano said.
Trump carved out exceptions in his bans for workers in health care, food processing and agriculture because of the essential nature of their work during a pandemic, but his policies are still intended to keep hundreds of thousands of would-be immigrants and workers out of the U.S.
Margarita Espericueta, 38, was hoping to soon leave Baja California, Mexico and join her husband in Santa Ana, where he works in carpentry and construction. He is a naturalized citizen and is the sponsor for her green card application. Their two children, ages 14 and 18, have citizenship through him and will be moving here permanently this summer.
While Trump's green card restrictions do not apply to the spouses of U.S. citizens, Espericueta's application hit a snag. She had entered the U.S. about a decade ago for a short stay without a tourist visa and now needs a waiver for her application that she worries will take months to process.
"There are times where I just start crying and feel really sad," said Espericueta of being separated from the rest of the family. "There's a sense of despair, not knowing what will happen."
Trump's order is also affecting people who are already here. Andrea Marcel Castillo, who's from El Salvador, is studying legal affairs in Santa Ana on an F-1 student visa while working full time with immigrants and refugees. Her hope was she could get a work visa and level up to the next phase of her life.
"I'm back to square one," Castillo, 26, said. "I have to enroll in school in order to continue living here, working here, or I just have to pack up and go home."
So for now, life plans are on hold.