Immigration Changes Caused by Coronavirus Pandemic

This week, the US has started responding rapidly to the global shifts and tumultuous changes caused by the coronavirus. One of the systems most affected by the international pandemic has been the US immigration system: in little over a week, there have been a dozen changes in US immigration policy—changes that will disrupt thousands of lives.

This comes on the heels of a period of already rapid change; the Trump administration is known for making rapid, hard-to-track changes within immigration policy, making it harder for regular people to navigate. 

Today, The Law Offices of Lloyd E. Bennett Esq., P.C. will do our best to summarize all the changes we’ve seen in the last few days.

1.) ICE Commits to No Enforcement Around Healthcare Facilities

Immigrations & Customs Enforcement sent a memo to its officers to no longer do enforcement actions around healthcare facilities. ICE has also urged the undocumented to seek necessary medical care without fear. Additionally, thanks to the voices of immigrants and advocates, they’ve scaled back operations to only enforce against people who are a “public safety risk.”

2.) Department of Justice Closes 10 Immigration Courts Nationwide

The DOJ is postponing any hearings for immigrants who are not in detention. 

3.) The US & Canada Mutually Closes Shared Border to Nonessential Travel

The president has said the border closing does not apply to goods and vital services. “Trade will not be affected,” he said during the announcement.

4.) Refugee Admissions Are Suspended Thru April 6

The US has paused all refugee admissions until the first week of April. The decision follows a similar decision from the UN and the International Organization for Migration, both of which suspended resettlement travel to avoid spreading the coronavirus to new arrivals.

5.) ICE Pauses Deportation to Italy, China & South Korea

 ICE will continue deporting immigrants elsewhere, but they have employed a temperature screening process to screen every passenger. If a passenger registered a temperature of 100.4 or higher, they’re sent to a medical provider.

6.) USCIS & ICE Suspends All In-Person Appointments

The suspension includes both interviews and naturalization ceremonies. ICE is rescheduling all in-person appointments for non-detained immigrants. For immigrants who were released at the southern border, their check-in can now occur at 60 days instead of 30.

7.) Guatemala Pauses Asylum Agreement with the US

Guatemala has closed its borders, and as a result has suspended an agreement with the US that lowered the number of asylum seekers at the US border.

8.) Travel Restrictions Now Include UK, Ireland & Other Countries

One of the first responses the US had to the global pandemic was to restrict travel to China, Iran, and 26 European countries from Iceland to Greece. Those restrictions extended to the UK and Ireland days after the initial travel restriction was issued.

9.) ICE Has Ended Social Visits at Detention Facilities

ICE initially committed to keeping social visits and said it would implement safety protocols from the CDC to protect staff and detainees. Now, social visits are no longer allowed.

10.) The Office of Refugee Resettlement Stops Placing Children in California or Washington

The Office of Refugee Resettlement puts unaccompanied children seeking refuge in homes and shelters throughout the US. Last week, they stopped placing children in California or Washington to avoid infection.