A federal judge Wednesday denied a request by immigration advocacy groups to temporarily halt part of President Donald Trump’s recent order that would restrict some children of permanent residents from obtaining visas to enter the country over the next two months.
Last Wednesday, Trump signed an order that blocks some new entrants to the country who don’t already have visas or other travel documents but exempted certain categories of foreign workers and employers, including investors and health care professionals, as well their spouses and children. Also exempt are children or spouses of American citizens and U.S. military and most asylum seekers.
Trump has said the purpose of the executive order is not only to protect Americans from the coronavirus but to save their jobs.
The Portland-based Innovation Law Lab, Los Angeles-based Justice Action Center and the American Immigration Lawyers Association filed an emergency motion on Saturday, seeking a temporary order to block Trump’s ban on visa services for children of immigrants who are at risk of turning 21 and aging out of their preferential underage status for the processing of visas.
But U.S. District Judge Michael H. Simon found there wasn’t a sufficient connection to the plaintiffs’ pending suit that challenges Trump’s restrictions on visas for immigrants who can’t pay for health insurance.
“Just because the Court issued orders based on a complaint relating to the processing of immigrant visa applications, that does not mean that the Court has the authority… to stop enforcement of every immigration-related executive order (or other action) that might affect members of the certified class,’’ Simon wrote in his ruling.
While the judge said he recognized the potential hardship and delay for those who are turning 21 and could lose their preferential status for the processing of a visa under Trump’s recent order, he wrote, “that is a matter for Congress to fix, not the courts.”
Attorney Nadia Dahab, of Innovation Law Lab, had argued during a hearing held by phone Wednesday that plaintiffs were seeking limited relief “to protect the kids who are at the most imminent risk of harm.’’
She conceded that the individuals impacted are likely a small group of young adults who are 20 years and a few months old now and would turn 21 in the next three months and lose their child status preference for a visa.
The 60-day pause in granting visas under Trump’s latest order could turn into a potentially indefinite delay in their visa processing and prolonged family separation, Dahab argued.
“These kids may be functionally unable to receive a visa in their lifetime,’’ she told the court.
Attorney Courtney Moran, representing Trump and the government, countered that the challenge isn’t appropriate in the immigration suit pending before Simon that deals with the ability of immigrants to afford health insurance.
“It’s completely unrelated to this lawsuit,’’ she said.
“Of course we are not unsympathetic to the facts that certain individuals are going to age out of their visa preference category,’’ Moran told the judge.
Though those who turn 21 would lose their preference for a visa, they can still apply.
“They don’t lose eligibility for a visa,” Moran said. “It’s not extinguishing anyone’s rights to apply for a visa.’’
Other emergency services also still exist for this group of visa applicants to make their predicament known to consulate services where they live, Moran told the court.
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