When the President issues an executive order, he first enlists experts to review the data and determine the exact nature of the problem. He then commissions a study to examine possible solutions and look at the pros and cons of each option. He carefully considers the law and takes into account dissenting points of view. His staff then crafts an order to achieve the desired ends, while avoiding as many negative externalities as possible.

I'm joking of course.

In the case of the new Executive Order, President Trump issued a late-night Tweet. Then, his staff, caught by surprise, scrambled to implement their boss's vision and voila! An Executive Order was born.

The new EO, issued yesterday evening, is based not on the Trumpian trope that immigrants bring disease. Rather, the order is justified based on the current economic crisis. Indeed, the title of the EO is Proclamation Suspending Entry of Immigrants Who Present Risk to the U.S. Labor Market During the Economic Recovery Following the COVID-19 Outbreak. This was probably a wise move, as we are now the epicenter of the pandemic, and so it would be difficult to justify keeping people out of our country due to health concerns. The economic justification, on the other hand, will be easier to defend (recall that under the Administrative Procedures Act, courts can block a regulation that is “arbitrary and capricious, an abuse of discretion, or otherwise not in accordance with the law"). While there is ample evidence that immigrants start more businesses than native born Americans and that 51% of start-ups worth $1 billion or more were founded by foreign-born entrepreneurs, there is some (less convincing) evidence that immigration depresses wages for certain groups, such as blue collar workers. But given the low threshold of the Administrative Procedures Act, this is probably enough of a justification for the EO to pass muster, particularly in the Supreme Court, which has been very deferential to the President's authority vis-a-vis immigration.

So let's talk about what the EO does and--more importantly--what it does not do.

First, who is blocked from obtaining a Green Card? As far as I can tell, the only people blocked from obtaining a Green Card are those who are currently overseas and who currently do not have a U.S. visa or other travel document. Essentially, this means that U.S. Embassies will stop issuing new travel documents for immigrants to come to the United States. For immigrants who already have their visa or travel document, they can still come to the U.S. Also, spouses and unmarried, under-21 year old children of U.S. citizens are excepted from the ban and can still immigrate to the United States. Other relatives, such as parents, siblings, and older children of citizens are blocked. Also blocked are family members of Green Card holders and most people seeking residency through employment. However, the ban does not apply to medical professionals and their immediate family members, EB-5 investors, adoptees, spouses and children of members of the military, aliens entering on a Special Immigrant Visa, and aliens whose admission is in the national interest or who are assisting a law enforcement investigation. In short, this is a fairly narrowly-tailored suspension of immigration, though for those people who are blocked, it will be difficult.

Second, how long does the "suspension" last? The EO indicates that it will remain in effect for 60 days. After that, depending on economic conditions, it could be extended.

Third, it is important to understand who is not affected by the EO. People seeking non-immigrant visas are not affected. Permanent residents (i.e., people who already have a Green Card) are not affected, whether they are currently in the U.S. or overseas. No one who is currently inside the United States is affected by the EO. This includes permanent residents, asylum seekers, asylees, refugees, and people applying for immigration benefits (inside the U.S.), such as a Green Card or asylum (one exception here might be people who wish to leave the U.S. and return using a provisional waiver). Also, the EO has no effect on Employment Authorization Documents ("EAD") or on the right to seek humanitarian protection. Indeed, the EO specifically states--

Nothing in this proclamation shall be construed to limit the ability of an individual to seek asylum, refugee status, withholding of removal, or protection under the Convention Against Torture and Other Cruel, Inhuman or Degrading Treatment or Punishment, consistent with the laws of the United States.

Fourth, there are still parts of the EO that are not clear. One important question is whether I-730 beneficiaries are subject to the ban. Based on the above language, my sense is that they will not be affected, but I am not sure. Also, I am not sure about K-1 fiances, but since the K-1 is technically a non-immigrant visa, I expect that fiance-beneficiaries will not be affected. Finally, the biggest question is whether the ban will end in 60 days, or whether it will be extended if--as seems likely--the economic crisis persists. A 60-day suspension of immigrant visas will be manageable for most effected people. However, if the ban is extended, the harm to families and business will increase significantly.

Given that embassies are already mostly closed, numerous travel restrictions are already in place, and many flights are canceled, I'd venture that the new EO will have very little real-world impact. What then is the point?

On its face, the EO is meant to protect American workers from foreign-born competitors, but given all the exceptions to the ban, I doubt the order will result in a significant drop in immigration (beyond what we've already seen as a result of the world-wide shutdown). Thus, even if you buy into the proposition that immigrant labor has a negative impact on the job prospects for U.S. citizens, I do not see how the EO will protect many American workers.

If all this is correct, then the only remaining purpose of the EO is to frighten non-citizens and to delight nativists. Unfortunately, I suspect it will accomplish both of those goals. But to my immigrant friends, it is important to understand that for all its sound and fury, the Trump Administration has achieved little with this new Executive Order. Perhaps that fact can provide some level of comfort in these dark times.

Originally posted on the Asylumist: www.Asylumist.com