Trump’s New Executive Order Will Favor Immigrants from Western Europe

An estimated 358,000 green card approvals per year could be blocked

Apr 22, 2020

Immigrants banned from applying for green cards under Trump's executive order

IMPORTANT UPDATE: The Trump administration has extended the April proclamation until Dec. 31, 2020. President Donald Trump has also imposed further visa restrictions, suspending temporary work visas such as the H-1B through the end of this year.

President Trump announced plans on April 20 to “temporarily suspend immigration into the United States,” and signed a Presidential Proclamation on April 22, 2020.

Out of the 1.1 million green cards that the United States typically issues each year, some 358,000 would not be approved as long as this proclamation is in effect.

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Today’s executive action includes the following elements:

  • Decisions on green card (“immigrant visa”) applications filed from abroad (“consular processing”) will be delayed for at least 60 days.
  • The proclamation will not apply to any green card applicants who are spouses or minor children of U.S. citizens.
  • The proclamation will not apply to any green card applicants filing from within the United States (“adjustments of status”).
  • The proclamation will not apply to Special Immigrant Visas or EB-5 (“immigrant investor”) visas.
  • The proclamation will not apply to any temporary visas (student visas, H-1B visas, etc.), whether filed from within the United States or from abroad.

Far and away the primary immediate impact is that parents will be separated from their children, for no legitimate economic or public health purpose. For as long as this proclamation is in effect, the parents, siblings, and adult children of U.S. citizens, as well as spouses and young children of permanent residents, simply won’t be allowed to begin a new life together in the United States—even after the State Department consulates reopen, and even though these families have been waiting for years or even decades.

If this policy is in effect for a period of years, then it is certain to favor immigrants from Western Europe relative to other regions of the world, since they are more likely to be exempt (see the graphs below for more details).

Trump’s Proclamation Would Cut Immigration by 33%

Based on the assumptions above, Trump’s new proclamation would block a third of all the people who would otherwise be approved for a green card each year, by suspending most applications for permanent residency filed from abroad:

  • Most parents of U.S. citizens apply from abroad, leading to a 59% decline in eligibility.
  • The vast majority of other family-based green card applicants apply from abroad, leading to a 93% decline.
  • On the other hand, most employment-based green card applicants are already in the United States on temporary work visas, so the proclamation would not affect them; only the 11% who typically apply from abroad will be blocked.
  • The Diversity Visa program would be effectively terminated.

Out of the 1.1 million green cards that the United States typically issues each year, some 358,000 would not be approved as long as this proclamation is in effect.

Most of the people applying for these green cards have already been waiting for years or even decades for a final decision—the proclamation would extend this delay indefinitely. The immigration ban may also have the longer-term effect of reallocating green cards from family-based applicants abroad to employment-based applicants already in the United States.

Trump Immigration Executive Order vs normal policy

Trump’s Proclamation Mirrors His Unsuccessful Legislative Agenda

Back in 2017, President Trump announced his support for the “RAISE Act,” a bill that would dramatically cut immigration and that was immediately declared “dead on arrival” in Congress.

Despite the fact that Congress has not approved restrictions on immigration since 1965, Trump’s new proclamation would accomplish almost exactly the same cuts as the unsuccessful RAISE Act.

In one respect, Trump’s proclamation is much more restrictive than the RAISE Act, by blocking lawful permanent residents from bringing their spouses and young children to the United States on green cards.

Trump immigration proclamation vs RAISE Act

Trump’s Proclamation Favors Immigration from Western Europe

Trump’s proclamation will block relatively few immigrants from Western Europe, Canada, and Australia, while blocking relatively more immigrants from Asia, Africa, Central America, and Eastern Europe.

Region # blocked % blocked
Canada 910 9%
Western Europe 4,916 15%
Australia and New Zealand 856 25%
Mexico 44,415 27%
South America 22,648 29%
Middle East, South and East Asia 135,312 34%
Central America 84,464 34%
Africa 44,782 39%
Eastern Europe 24,716 42%
Central Asia 4,794 60%

Boundless applied the proclamation’s likely restrictions to green card approval numbers from each country and region listed above (using DHS and State Department data from Fiscal Year 2018).

The “number of green cards blocked” includes the following categories when filed from abroad: family-based immigrants, employment-based immigrants (except for EB-5 investor visas), diversity visas, and parents of U.S. citizens (calculated as 34% of all immediate relative immigrants, which is the average proportion).

The proclamation does not block green card applications filed abroad by spouses and minor children of U.S. citizens or Special Immigrant Visas, as well as any green card applications filed from within the United States.

The “percent of green cards blocked” is the number of green cards blocked under the proclamation divided by the total number of green cards that would normally be issued in a given year (using the five-year annual average between Fiscal Years 2014–2018).

As a general matter, the Diversity Visa program is only available to nationals of certain countries—many of them in Africa, Asia, Eastern Europe, and Central Asia—so the proclamation’s suspension of the program hits these regions particularly hard.

Conversely, individuals from Western Europe, Canada, Australia, and New Zealand are more likely to already reside in the United States on a temporary work visa when they apply for a green card, putting them beyond the reach of Trump’s proclamation.

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