Pamela Austin, recruiter at Adventist Health Bakersfield in California, filled seven vacancies for foreign nurses in February and just finished the first round of interviews with 12 more candidates. They come from all over the world, including the United Kingdom, the Philippines, Australia and Malaysia.
The international candidates are meeting the urgent need of the private hospital for experienced nurses who can work in emergency and intensive care units, said Austin – jobs that cannot be filled only with American nurses, many of whom have just graduated.
However, that need could not be met if President Donald Trump extended the green cards he extended for 60 days on behalf of protecting American jobs amid the coronavirus outbreak.
“It would be a huge setback,” said Austin. “Those are gaps I don’t have to fill.”
Trump says the measure is necessary at a time when unemployment has risen to the level last seen during the Great Depression.
Critics have rejected the move as the President’s disguised attempt to effect cuts to legal immigration that he had previously proposed, but he was unable to convince Congress or the courts to accept – and to distract voters from his treatment of the pandemic.
But immigrants and political opponents are not alone in opposing the measure: Trump-based hardliners say it’s not going far enough to curb immigration.
The order “is designed to meet strong business interests that appreciate a steady stream of cheap foreign labor,” said Dan Stein, president of the Federation for American Immigration Reform, in a letter to the president on Thursday.
The Center for Immigration Studies, another hardline group, said the 60-day break will “provide little relief to Americans” and criticized an exemption for foreigners who agree to invest at least $ 900,000 in the US.
The proclamation, signed on Wednesday, will end temporary non-immigration visas for hundreds of thousands of workers every year, including agricultural workers, software engineers and others in areas deemed to be underemployed. It does not apply to applicants for green cards who are already in the United States.
As long as the freeze continues, many families will be excluded from immigration. Spouses of U.S. citizens and their children under 21 are exempt, but parents, adult children, grandchildren, adult siblings, and other family members are not.
Carl Shusterman, an immigration attorney from Los Angeles who advises hospitals, said he hoped Trump’s proclamation would provide a general exemption for nurses, who often arrive with a green card. Instead, only health care providers whose work is considered essential to recover from the COVID-19 outbreak are exempted.
“Embassies and consulates make the decisions,” he said. “They don’t have any special expertise in COVID-19, like none of us.”
Houston immigration attorney Raed Gonzalez said he does not expect the suspension to have much effect – at least in the short term – because embassies and consulates had already halted routine visa processing in response to the pandemic last month.
“This is more of an administration show than anything,” he said.
But other immigrant advocates predict profound changes as the measure becomes permanent.
Doug Rand, co-founder of Boundless, a company that advises families and individuals on green cards, estimates that 358,000 applicants per year will not be able to obtain a permanent residence if the order is renewed.
He said the victims would include about 50,000 diversity visas annually for countries that send fewer people to the United States, and that the measure would have major implications for immigrants from Asia, Central America, and Eastern Europe.
Rand says Trump is using the pandemic to make changes to the immigration system that he couldn’t get past Congress or the courts. He called the 60-day stopper a ‘double fig leaf’ to make the palate more palatable.
“I don’t think it takes a lot of guesswork that President Donald Trump will use his discretion to extend it every now and then in 60 days, over and over,” Rand said.
The edict bears similarities to legislation Trump failed to pass in 2017 that would reduce legal immigration, largely through family visas that the President mockingly calls “ chain migration. ”
Last month, the government effectively suspended asylum by quickly expelling everyone entering the country along the borders with Mexico and Canada. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention extended the policy this week to May 20 for health reasons.
Trump told reporters he could extend the most recent order or change it next week, in two months or ‘as we move forward’ to ‘be made harder or less difficult’.
“We don’t want to hurt our companies, and we don’t want to hurt our farmers,” he said Wednesday. “Very important.”
Joe Biden, Trump’s suspected democratic rival in the November election, reiterated those who called the measure an attempt to divert attention from the way the president handled the pandemic.
“Instead of making a quick and aggressive attempt to speed up testing, Donald Trump tweets burning rhetoric about immigrants hoping to distract everyone from the core truth: he’s moved too slowly to contain this virus, and we’re paying all the price, ”said Biden on Tuesday.
Matt Hill, a spokesperson for the campaign, said on Thursday that Biden would not enforce the policy if elected.
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