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How has American Immigration Law Changed as a Result of the Coronavirus?

The unprecedented nature of the time we are living in cannot be understated. Right now, countries across the world are on lockdown. Measures have been taken to ensure citizens of these countries avoid as much contact with one another as is physically possible.

As well as this, precautions have been taken to limit or halt travel to several countries, particularly those which have been the hardest hit by the COVID-19 outbreak.

Despite Donald Trump’s apparent commitment to prioritising his country’s economy over its people, he has also been forced to instill a range of measures which aim to prevent and delay the spread of the virus any further. Not least of these are changes to the US’ immigration system – something which has coincidentally been at the core of much of his presidency’s policies.

The unprecedented nature of the time we are living in cannot be understated.

There are several changes which have been made to the US’ already-stringent immigration system. As with the case of many other countries, this has caused it to shift remarkably, changing processes, systems and lives in unimaginable ways. Since the Coronavirus outbreak started to move towards its peak, the US has introduced a range of measures aimed at limiting the number of people travelling into and out of the country.

President Donald Trump addresses reporters alongside members of the White House Coronavirus Task Force.
[Image: Chip Somodevilla,
Getty Images]

Limits to cross-border travel

The US and Mexico have both announced that they will be limiting all nonessential travel across the border. Currently, exceptions include travelling for work, school or medical purposes.

As well as this, the US has also taken extra precautions to bar the illegal entry of migrants, including by imposing instant deportations of any individual being found to be travelling across the border “without the proper travel documentation”.

As well as the US-Mexico border, non-essential travel across the Canadian US border has also been suspended. According a Tweet by Trump, trade will not be affected by this decision.

Changes to immigration enforcement operations

ICE (Immigration and Customs Enforcement) has been told to temporarily adjust its “enforcement posture”. The agency, which is usually solely focused on upholding immigration law, has now been asked to change its operations, so that it can enforce mandatory detention on anyone who is seen to “pose a risk to public safety” (including those who ignore social distancing and self-isolation advice).

Europe (including UK and Ireland) travel ban instilled

A travel ban has been placed on the US and Europe. Initially this did not include the UK or Ireland, but it has since been extended to both countries.

…our priority should be ensuring everyone is safe and secure — no matter what their background, ethnicity, or nationality

American citizens, Green Card holders and immediate family members are the only people exempt from this.

No more visitation to detention facilities

ICE have also announced a ban on all visits to detention facilities, meaning detained migrants can no longer receive visits from family members. They can, however, still receive visits by legal professionals – although online and telephone support is being encouraged wherever this is possible.

The world is functioning in a way it has never done before. Systems are being altered, and this is having a profound impact on the way we move around and set up lives in the world. No matter, what happens now, our priority should be ensuring everyone is safe and secure — no matter what their background, ethnicity, or nationality.

Written by
Luna Williams
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