Judge refuses to block Trump's coronavirus green card freeze

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A federal judge in Oregon who previously blocked President Trump’s order to bar immigrants who lacked or could not afford health insurance refused to do the same with regard to Trump’s recent pause on green cards.

The same plaintiffs who got U.S. District Court Judge Michael Simon to issue a temporary injunction last fall sought a similar injunction against the coronavirus-related order Trump issued last week, at least when it comes to children of permanent residents who are likely to turn 21 and lose child status while the new ban is in effect. Simon said he could not do this because Trump’s new order has nothing to do with the original case.

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“The April 22nd Proclamation is completely unrelated to the October 4th Proclamation,” Simon said in a Wednesday order, rejecting the plaintiffs’ suggestion that the All Writs Act of 1789 gives him broad authority to take action regarding any immigration executive orders, not just the one at the center of their initial lawsuit. “Simply because the April 22nd Proclamation may preclude or delay the processing of immigrant visa applications is too attenuated from the allegations in the First Amended Class Action Complaint to support an extraordinary writ under the All Writs Act.”

Trump’s latest order placed a 60-day ban on green cards, and the immigrants who brought the class-action lawsuit in the fall claimed that class members who are turning 21 during that time will be deprived of preferential status that would allow their applications to be processed more swiftly.

Simon recognized the plaintiffs’ concern that Trump’s latest order could result in some people having the processing of their applications delayed indefinitely, but said that alone was not enough to block any order.

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“For example,” the judge wrote, “if the President received reliable intelligence that an immigrant from a certain country was planning to bring a dirty bomb into the United States and the President issued an executive order temporarily stopping the processing of all immigrant visa applicants from that country, such an executive order might prevent potential Visa Applicant Subclass members from that country from receiving the benefit of the Court’s orders.”

Simon went on to say there are plenty of other potential situations where an executive order related to immigration that is based on national security would impact visa applicants that have nothing to do with the plaintiffs’ case, which is based on health insurance.

“Just because the Court issued orders based on a complaint relating to the processing of immigrant visa applications,” Simon said, “that does not mean that the Court has the authority under the All Writs Act to stop enforcement of every immigration-related executive order (or other action) that might affect members of the certified class.”

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Trump initially suggested a more far-reaching immigration freeze. His proclamation, titled “Suspension of Entry of Immigrants Who Present a Risk to the United States Labor Market During the Economic Recovery Following the 2019 Novel Coronavirus Outbreak,” noted that an increase in lawful permanent residents would result in added competition for jobs after millions of Americans have filed for unemployment during the economic crisis caused by the pandemic.

Judge Simon stated that if visa application wait times are "unreasonably constricted" by Trump's order, "that is a matter for Congress to fix, not the courts."