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Revamped Suit Challenges Presidential Power to Bar Entry to U.S.

July 17, 2020, 6:34 PM

A new class of plaintiffs claim President Donald Trump’s June 22 proclamation suspending U.S. entry by certain classes of visa holders is an attempt to “unilaterally rewrite the federal immigration laws” and exceeds the scope of his statutory authority.

Their revised complaint, filed Friday at the U.S. District Court in Washington, D.C., challenges the entirety of Trump’s proclamation. The president’s action extended a previous order barring entry to the U.S. for green card applicants. It also expanded the earlier order to include H-1B and H-4 visas, which are used by workers in specialty occupations and their families, as well as L visas for intracompany transfers and most J visas for work- and study-abroad programs.

Attorneys bringing the case say the breadth of the complaint makes it the first of its kind. They’ve sued on behalf of more than 20 individuals and businesses.

The administration said the order was necessary to protect U.S. jobs for U.S. workers during the economic downturn. But plaintiffs in the case claim that logic is flawed, and that Congress has already rejected the premise that competition for jobs in the U.S. is a “zero sum game” by maintaining and expanding the immigration system even in the face of prior economic downturns.

Trump is a named defendant in the lawsuit, as are U.S. Attorney General William Barr, Secretary of State Mike Pompeo and the U.S. departments of State and Homeland Security.

First filed in May, the case was brought in response to an April proclamation that froze green card applications. The amended complaint adds plaintiffs affected by the June proclamation, including employers in essential industries such as shipping and transportation; foreign medical graduates with residencies at hospitals treating Covid-19 patients; diversity visa lottery winners; and guest workers separated from their families and jobs.

Trump’s proclamation is “contrary to our federal immigration laws’ longstanding core purposes of family reunification, protecting individuals in need of humanitarian relief, promoting diversity, and welcoming immigrants with skills that are useful to and will help grow the U.S. economy,” plaintiffs’ lawyer Nadia Dahab said. She’s an attorney with the Portland, Oregon-based Innovation Law Lab.

“This ban is not about protecting the U.S. labor market or encouraging economic growth, it simply does not serve the purposes that the administration suggests, and will in fact only endanger the economy,” Dahab told reporters in a press call Thursday.

The revamped complaint comes just days after a group of high-skilled guestworker visa holders and their spouses sued to invalidate Trump’s June proclamation, which similarly bars them from returning to the U.S. for the duration of 2020 due to the economic downturn caused by the Covid-19 pandemic. They argue he’s precluded from doing so by the federal Immigration and Nationality Act and the Administrative Procedure Act.

Waivers Missing for Doctors

The lawsuit highlights plaintiffs who, it asserts, are needed more than ever to combat the current coronavirus pandemic.

The April and June proclamations have exemptions for medical personnel treating Covid-19 cases, but consulate closures abroad have created a barrier for such personnel, said Linda Alvarez, a medical doctor who is secretary-treasurer of the Service Employees International Union’s Committee of Interns and Residents.

More than 250 resident physicians have contacted the union’s committee since June 22 because consular officers have refused to review applications “even though they are explicitly exempt from the order,” Alvarez said.

Many of the residents are due to start residencies or fellowships at hospitals in California, Florida, Massachusetts, and New York, which have been or are now hot-spots for the virus.

“The only way we’ll be able to rebuild our economy is if we get Covid under control,” Alvarez told reporters. “By barring physicians from coming to the U.S. to help care for Covid patients, the federal government is actually creating an impediment to our economic recovery.”

CAUSES OF ACTION: Violations of the Immigration and Nationality Act, Administrative Procedure Act, and the Due Process Clause of the Fifth Amendment.

RELIEF: Declaratory relief, and enjoining the June proclamation from implementation.

RESPONSE: Representatives for the federal government didn’t immediately respond to requests for comment.

ATTORNEYS: Attorneys with Mayer Brown LLP, Innovation Law Lab, Justice Action Center, and the American Immigration Lawyers Association represent the plaintiffs.

The case is Gomez et al v. Trump, D.D.C., No. 1:20-cv-01419, amended complaint 7/17/20

To contact the reporter on this story: Genevieve Douglas in Washington at gdouglas@bloomberglaw.com

To contact the editors responsible for this story: Andrew Harris at aharris@bloomberglaw.com; John Lauinger at jlauinger@bloomberglaw.com

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