In the last two months, immigration to the United States has almost stopped. The Trump administration has closed the offices of the Citizenship and Immigration Service, consulates abroad, as well as the borders with Canada and Mexico, and imposed a 60-day ban on issuing new green cards. The Presidential Declaration of April 22 states, among other things, that decisions on the issuance of green cards, for which applicants have applied outside the U.S., are postponed for 60 days; issuance of immigration visas is suspended for 60 days; the provisions of the declaration do not apply to obtaining visas filed in the U.S.; the declaration does not apply to visas for immigrant investors.
Jessica Vaughan, director of policy research at the Center for Migration Studies, notes that the president’s declaration is based on the current economic situation and seeks to protect the U.S. labor market.
“The president has stopped employment based on immigration visas and green cards because of the pandemic that caused the economic crisis in the United States and abroad. Tens of millions of Americans in the United States are unemployed. The president understands that new immigrants will find it very difficult to find work. They will also compete with American citizens who are unemployed,” she told the Voice of America Russian Service.
According to Sarah Pierce, an expert from the American Institute for Migration Policy, President Trump regularly addresses the topic of immigration to further consolidate his electoral base.
“The U.S. continues to deport nationals of other countries because it is an important political issue for the president, although we know that we will deport the coronavirus as well. In fact, the presidential declaration is not very important. According to the U.S. immigration laws, those green cards that are not issued will be redistributed either this year or next among other applicants. The declaration has more political benefit than practical,” she said.
The U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Service, which has requested Congressional funding, has not released data on how many visa applications have been received since the pandemic began. However, the agency recognizes that their number is decreasing. The latest available data – from October 2019 to December 2019 – showed a slight surge in visa applications.
“During the pandemic, the agency suspended processing of many petitions as well as personal communication with applicants. The budget of the Citizenship and Immigration Service is also being funded through visa fees. However, there is one curious detail in the appeal to Congress. It consists in the fact that since the beginning of Trump administration the agency receives fewer visa applications – their number has decreased by almost 900000. So their budget has been in crisis for a long time. It wasn’t difficult to predict that they would apply to Congress for help,” said Sarah Pierce.
Jessica Vaughn notes that the lack of funds is also related to decisions made by the previous administration in the field of immigration policy.
“The budget deficit is also due to the fact that previous administrations allowed people to obtain visas without paying their full cost. USCIS is a federal agency that levies money on services. All of their income, with one small exception, are fees when applying for an immigrant visa: green card, citizenship or temporary visa. During the Obama administration, DACA immigration visa applicants were allowed to pay half the fee. Asylum seekers receive their visas free of charge. The U.S. has faced hundreds of thousands of asylum claims from people who arrived at the southwestern border during the immigration crisis of the past few years,” said Jessica Vaughn.
She adds that a combination of factors has led to USCIS running out of money.
“The Citizenship and Immigration Service cannot raise visa fees unilaterally. Congressional approval is required,” explains the Director of Policy Studies at the Center for Migration Studies.
The presidential declaration does not mean that immigration to the U.S. will be completely stopped, Jessica Vaughn adds.
“The president has no interest or desire to completely stop immigration to the United States. He talks a lot about how he wants to reform the system to make it better and serve our country and our economy. He believes that there are things that need to be changed. For example, he wants to reduce immigration based on family ties and he wants to focus on labor immigration of skilled workers. It is unlikely that Congress will radically change the immigration system, which will either increase or decrease the number of immigrants coming to the United States in the foreseeable future.
Experts note that both the presidential declaration and the lack of funding for the Citizenship and Immigration Service will not stop immigration to the United States.