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'It's getting worse': how the COVID-19 pandemic affected immigration in the United States

As coronavirus spreads around the world, the administration of US President Donald Trump has blocked most of the legal immigration routes to the United States. Writes about it CNN.

Photo: Shutterstock

For four months, people who legally immigrated to the United States (or are just trying) were deprived of a normal life due to a number of changes associated with the pandemic. The drastic changes led to the fact that immigrants and their families were in limbo and are struggling to understand what to do next.

The reasons presented by the Trump administration vary: from protecting American workers at a time when unemployment is very high, to where public health comes first.

This week, the future of more than 1 million international students attending universities in the United States has become uncertain.

On Monday, July 6, the U.S. Immigration and Customs Police (ICE) announced that international students attending online courses only may need to transfer to other universities or leave the United States. It is worth noting that distance education is becoming more common as universities move away from individual studies in a pandemic.

Among these students was Shreya Toussou. Over the past three years, a 21-year-old graduate student at UC Berkeley has lived and studied in the United States. But now she can easily be deported from the place that she already calls home because of her busy university course.

“We really don't know what's going on. Everyone is trying to find ways to plan a one-to-one lesson, but there are not many options, ”says Tussu, who is also president of the International Students Association in Berkeley.

On the subject: How to find a free U.S. immigration attorney: three proven ways

Just a few days ago, companies and foreign workers experienced a similar state of anxiety. Many people trying to come to the U.S. on green cards have learned that this will not be possible before the end of the year.

“It is likely that during this massive crisis of not only public health, but also the country's economy, the administration's agenda will be redefined,” said Sarah Pearce, an analyst at the Migration Policy Institute based in Washington.

“I was in shock”

The ICE announcement prohibiting foreign students from attending only online courses in the US caught many by surprise after the agency provided greater flexibility in training during the spring quarantine.

“I was shocked,” says Valeria Mendiola, a student at Harvard University. “We plan our life depending on the specific circumstances, make every effort to get here, and suddenly all this happens literally halfway to the goal.”

Visa requirements for students have always been strict, so it was not allowed to come to the USA to take online courses. According to the rules, which officials say are designed to provide maximum flexibility, students may remain at universities offering online classes, but they will not be allowed to do so and remain in the United States.

“If the university is not going to open or plans to conduct 100% of its classes online, then the students will not be in the US to study,” said Ken Cucinelli, acting deputy head of the Department of Homeland Security.

Prior to the ICE announcement, Harvard announced that all courses would be available online during the fall semester.

Mendiola says that she and her other classmates are currently pushing the university to review the decision and offer full-time studies. If this does not happen, she is afraid that she will have no choice but to return to Mexico. This will add to her unnecessary worries: what will happen to her apartment and rent, which she has already signed? With her furniture? With her student loans?

“If I take a vacation, I could lose all my loans and all my scholarships,” Mendiola laments. "It is very difficult to provide yourself with enough money to be here at all."

Harvard and the Massachusetts Institute of Technology sued the Trump administration to try to repeal this rule.

Legal immigration practically stopped

During the Trump presidency, the administration revised the US immigration system and reduced the number of refugee admissions to a historic low, severely limiting legal immigration.

The COVID-19 pandemic has accelerated the process of change in the system - it was proposed not to let asylum seekers through for public health safety reasons

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“During the pandemic, the administration effectively closed the road to refugees at the southern border,” Pierce said. - Legal immigration, especially family immigration has dropped sharply. In addition, the drawing of the green card lottery has almost stopped and the number of temporary foreign workers arriving in the country has been significantly reduced. "

If in 2016 about 6000 refugees arrived in the USA, then by 2018-2019. this level decreased significantly and kept within 1-500 people. And in 2, the level of refugee reception fell even more. For example, during a pandemic, only 500 refugees managed to get into the United States.

With several immigration orders issued in April and June, the White House administration, with some exceptions, suspended most of the family immigration and visas for guest workers until the end of the year. The Institute for Migration Policy estimates that some 167 temporary workers will not be allowed into the United States, and 000 green cards will be blocked monthly.

As a result of the virus outbreak, consulates abroad had to be closed. Since January, the number of non-immigrant visas issued has fallen by 94%.

If in 2018-2019 the number of issued non-immigrant visas ranged from 600-000, then during the pandemic about 900 thousand people received this type of visa.

If in 2018-2019 the number of issued visas averaged 40 per month, then for 000 quarantine months only 4 immigrants could get them.

“I know companies that think this is the end, they will no longer be able to accept workers from other countries,” says Nandini Nair, an immigration partner at Greenspoon Marder law firm in New Jersey, representing a variety of companies including technical, marketing and accounting firms; and medical and dental offices.

Sandra Feist, an immigration lawyer in Minnesota, asked HR specialists to contact their companies and worry about the employees they planned to hire. Feist recalled a conversation in which she was told that if the company could not deliver its chief operating officer to the United States, "it will be their death."

Many people are also concerned that the ICE rule may encourage international students to start looking for universities in other countries. This is true for Vitor Posebom, a Brazilian who holds a doctorate in economics from Yale.

“Before, I would say that staying in the United States is the main option for my career,” he said. "Now, to be honest, Canada, Europe, New Zealand and Australia seem like much better choices."

Tussa, who was planning to enter a medical school in the United States, is becoming increasingly convinced that the country in which she wanted to build her future considers her to be “one-time”.

“We are constantly receiving confirmation of this. For example, a ban on the issuance of H-1B until the end of this year, - said Tussu. "It's getting worse every day."

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