Late Monday night, April 20, 2020, President Trump made another sweeping immigration announcement without much detail, creating widespread panic around the globe. He posted on Twitter: “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!”

Despite this broad statement, we urge our clients and friends to remain calm. Nothing has yet been signed, and if such an order is signed, it will almost certainly be met with quick legal challenges and lawsuits.

Many such restrictions limiting travel/immigration to the United States are already in place at U.S. consulates around the world, where most visa processing has been suspended and borders closed. Administration officials have hinted that there may be exceptions for certain classes of foreign nationals, such as health care workers and farm workers. There have also been mixed statements from government officials as to whether the Executive Order will impact applications for immigration benefits on behalf of those presently in the United States, such as applications seeking to extend or change status.

The U.S. Constitution sets out in Article 1 that “All legislative powers herein granted shall be vested in a Congress of the United States, which shall consist of a Senate and House of Representatives.” U.S. Immigration law is grounded in legislation through the Immigration and Nationality Act (“INA”), which was enacted by Congress in 1952. Our Immigration laws can only be amended by Congress, not by presidential executive order. Although the Executive branch of government can certainly set agency policy that can impact immigration, the framework for our system is laid out in the Constitution and through the INA.

Our Immigration Law Practice Group includes immigration attorneys that work across New York state in our Albany, Buffalo, Ithaca, Long Island, New York City, Rochester and Syracuse offices. Our immigration lawyers focus on strategies – including immigrant visas for permanent U.S. resident status and temporary visas for foreign nationals – to ensure that employers are able to hire, transfer, and retain the brightest and best non-U.S. talent.

The Harris Beach Immigration team will continue to monitor this development very closely and will provide updates as they occur.

This alert does not purport to be a substitute for advice of counsel on specific matters.

Harris Beach has offices throughout New York State, including Albany, Buffalo, Ithaca, Long Island, New York City, Rochester, Saratoga Springs, Syracuse and White Plains, as well as New Haven, Connecticut and Newark, New Jersey.