President Trump announced last night that he would “temporarily suspend immigration into the United States” to stop the spread of COVID-19. Many prospective temporary workers, investors, athletes and entertainers are justly concerned by this vague tweet.
Section 212(f) of the Immigration Act provides that “Whenever the President finds that the entry of any aliens or of any class of aliens into the United States would be detrimental to the interests of the United States, he may by proclamation, and for such period as he shall deem necessary, suspend the entry of all aliens or any class of aliens as immigrants or non-immigrants, or impose on the entry of aliens any restrictions he may deem to be appropriate.
However, one must note that there is no correlation between immigrant share of a country’s population in the United States and its rate of cases or deaths from COVID-19.
Furthermore, immigrants are disproportionately involved in providing essential services during the pandemic. It makes no sense to keep out workers who are helping keep America running.
Finally, we should all be aware that the United States has already “suspended” nearly all immigration to the country by stopping almost all visas from being issued to non-citizens. While the filing and review of visa petitions continues “for now”, even if you have an approved visa petition as an athlete, entertainer or other temporary worker, the earliest available visa appointments at U.S. consulates for an actual interview are in late May- and even these are subject to cancellation and rescheduling. Anecdotal evidence suggests that visa appointments could ultimately be pushed out until later in the year with some exceptions.
With sports leagues and tours in the process of planning for alternative formats and schedules to cope with the current situation, it would be devastating to suddenly halt the option of foreign athletes and support personnel to legally enter the U.S. this year to participate in these events.
IT IS IMPERATIVE THAT PROFESSIONAL SPORTS LEAGUES, TOURS AND EVENTS IMMEDIATELY CONTACT THEIR SENATORS AND CONGRESSMEN TO VOICE STRONG OPPOSITION TO THIS IDEA. THEY SHOULD BE PREPARED TO SUPPORT THEIR POSITION WITH THE NUMBER OF FOREIGN ATHLETES IN THEIR SPORT, THE ECONOMIC IMPACT OF LOSING THESE ATHLETES AND THE BENEFIT THEIR SPORT PROVIDES TO THE AMERICAN PEOPLE. WE MUST SPEAK UP AND CANNOT BE PASSIVE AT THIS CRITICAL TIME.
*Steven M. Ladik is past President of the American Immigration Lawyers Association and represents numerous professional golfers on the LPGA Tour and PGA TOUR. He also serves as the outside Immigration Counsel to the National Football League. He is a Partner at Seltzer Chadwick Soefje & Ladik, PLLC. www.realclearcounsel.com