Just as unauthorized immigrants are at risk of being disproportionately affected by the Trump administration's apparent policy of continuing immigrant detention unabated, despite the obvious danger of spreading the disease even further into the general public from dangerously overcrowded immigrant detention jails (see my March 25 immigration Daily comment), they will reportedly also be barred from receiving unemployment benefits unless they have a social security number. under the Senate's new coronavirus stimulus package. See: Gothamist

Senate's $2 Trillion Coronavirus Relief Plan Leaves Out Undocumented and Their Families

Blaming and scapegoating "undocumented" immigrants for the coronavirus spread is wrong and contrary to America's values. Undocumented immigrants are human beings too, with the human right to life just like everyone else.

They are not the cause of the epidemic, which was very arguably caused in large part by the Trump administration's deliberate refusal to heed warnings by medical experts, but they but are also victims - indeed among the most vulnerable victims.

The federal government can do whatever it wants to discourage immigrants from coming to the US illegally, but rounding up and locking up more of the 12 million who are already in this country is not going to save a single American life. Instead, it could put even more Americans in danger, if the disease spreads from inside the already dangerous and unhealthy immigration prisons into the general population This may already be starting to happen.

Butt what about legal immigrants who lose the jobs on which their status depends when their employers lay off workers or shut down operations completely as is happening pursuant to "lockdown" measures to protect against the pandemic? Should they simply be told: "Sorry - your legal status has ended - now you have to leave the US"?

Of course, many employment-based immigrants, such as H-1B, L-1, O-1 E-1, E-2, TN and other mainly skilled and professional immigrants will have the benefit of the mandated 60-day grace period. But what happens after that? One option might be to apply to change status to B-1 visitor for business or B-2 visitor for pleasure.

We all know that B-1 or B-2 status is not meant to be simply a means to gain time to stay in the US when the real intention is to look for a job or some other kind of immigration status opportunity. But, to my personal knowledge, in at least a couple of recent cases that had nothing to do with the coronavirus, USCIS has approved B-1 change of status applications, even where the stated purpose was only to extend time in the US while hoping to obtain a different status that would allow the applicant to work.

It would not be far-fetched to imagine that USCIS might, in the exercise of its discretion, be willing to grant B-1 or B-2 status to immigrants who have always obeyed the immigration laws, but whose 60-day grace periods are about to or already have expired, at a time when international travel is uncertain and dangerous because of the virus.

To be continued in the next installment of this series of comments.

Roger Algase
Attorney at Law