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Who's affected by Trump's US immigration ban?

April 24, 2020

US President Donald Trump wants to stop green card applicants from getting into the country for at least 60 days. What exactly does it mean and does he have the power to do it? DW has the facts.

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Pledging to "protect American workers" as the effects of the new coronavirus put millions of people out of work and leave business struggling to make ends meet, US President Donald Trump announced he would be ban immigrants from seeking green cards, the documents granting them the right of permanent residency in the country.

Who will be affected?

The ban will affect only legal migrants seeking US residency. The Permanent Residency Card, also known as a green card, allows people to permanently live and work in the United States and opens a path to US citizenship.

Specifically, the order applies to people who were outside the US before midnight on Thursday April 23 (Washington DC time) and are not US residents, as well as to those who don't already have a valid immigrant visa or a similar document.

The US has issued around 1 million green cards in the 2019 fiscal year, about half of them to close family members of US citizens.

Read more: At US border, locals push back against Donald Trump's wall

Who will be exempt?

While Trump initially pledged to simply "temporarily suspend migration", the finalized version of his executive order applies only to green card holders and lists many exceptions within that group. Notably, the order does not apply to spouses of US citizens or their children younger than 21.

It also does not apply to doctors, nurses, and other medical professionals or researchers. Members of the US armed forces would be exempt, along with their families. Asylum seekers and refugees would also be exempt. Among other caveats, applicants traveling to the US on a so-called "investor visa" would also not be targeted by the suspension.

It would also not affect people who are already in the US and applying to become permanent residents, according to the National Law Review.

While discussing the order, Trump emphasized that it would not affect temporary workers, such as farm laborers, or tourists, business travelers, and skilled workers on non-permanent visas. However, the president also said "additional immigration-related measures" could be taken later.

How long will the ban last?

The measure went into force just before midnight on Thursday and is set to stay in effect for at least 60 days. It could, however, be extended by another 60 or a "lot longer" than that, Trump said. The authorities are obligated to look into lifting the measure no later than 10 days before its set to expire.

The US president also said he would be looking economic data before deciding if he wanted to prolong the immigration ban, implying that a strong economic recovery would make lifting the ban more likely.

Read moreUS restricts travel from EU: What you need to know

Is the executive order legal?

Trump has attempted to block immigration on multiple occasions since taking office in January 2017. In 2018, the US Supreme Court ruled that the president can block entry to specific groups of foreign nationals if they are deemed a security threat.

The Immigration and Nationality Act from 1965 also gives the president power to bar entry to any foreign group he deems "detrimental" to US interests. However, Trump's initiatives are often disputed in court and it possible the latest decision would also prompt lawsuits.

Trump has used national security concerns to justify imposing travel bans in the past, including the ban on arrivals from seven predominantly Muslim countries in 2017 and the latest ban on travelers from Europe in February.

Weeks before Trump first announced the move on Twitter, the pandemic had already ground legal immigration to a halt, with borders closed and air traffic largely suspended across the world.

dj/sms (AP, Reuters)

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