Trump ban gives Vietnamese immigration hopefuls the blues

By Long Nguyen, Viet Anh   April 29, 2020 | 12:29 pm GMT+7

After waiting for years to get their U.S. green card, many Vietnamese now face uncertainty after that country recently suspended immigration. 

Nguyen Thi Hoan, 63, of Saigon's District 3 gets a video call from her daughter's family in the U.S. every morning. 

Last Thursday her daughter called at 8 a.m. as usual and told her about President Donald Trump's order suspending immigration to the U.S.

Both were disappointed and sad, with no idea when they could meet each other again.

Until June 22 people like Hoan cannot seek permanent residency in the U.S., which is a mandatory step for future citizenship.

Only spouses and minor children of U.S. citizens are exempt from the immigration ban besides people on temporary work visas for agricultural and healthcare work.

For 60 days, Trumps order suspends access to green cards for family members of permanent residents who are outside of the U.S.,, parents and siblings of US citizens abroad. Photo by Shutterstock/Evgenia Parajanian

President Donald Trump has suspended issuance of green cards to parents and siblings of U.S. citizens living abroad. Photo by Shutterstock/Evgenia Parajania.

Hoan's daughter, who asked not to be named, went to America almost 10 years ago and now lives in Philadelphia with her husband and three children. Concerned about her mother's health after her father passed away a couple of years ago, she applied for a green card for Hoan in early 2019, hoping she could be in the U.S. this year or next.

"I feel sad, we keep waiting and waiting while my mother is getting older; I just want her to be with me."

When Trump tweeted last week that he would ban immigration to the U.S., which critics have said is to divert attention from his poor handling of the Covid-19 response, she had hesitated to tell her mother about it and instead waited for official information and advice from her lawyer. 

But when she heard about it, Hoan was calm and said they should be patient.

The ban does not really amount too much at this time since the U.S. had halted routine visa services at embassies and consulates in March as a measure against the spread of Covid-19.

After applying for his parents' green cards in 2018, Travis Nguyen, 38, of California also fears the process will take longer due to Trump's order last week.

He hopes the ban would be lifted soon so his parents' application is processed and not delayed for "an indefinite amount of time."

But for many Vietnamese living in the U.S. and waiting for green cards, Trump's orders are no big deal since they are not affected. 

Hoa Pham, who lives in Virginia, said: "I came to the U.S. in March 2019 and applied for a green card last July. I am not affected by the immigration ban.’ 

With the Citizenship and Immigration Services office closed, she does not known about her interview either though she had been notified about it last December.

Could be extended

In the worst case, the order could be extended, according to lawyers in the U.S.

David Nguyen, a lawyer in Texas, said if Trump extends the executive order until the end of this year, around 34,000 Vietnamese would be affected. 

"In 2017 Trump said the travel ban would last 90 days, but in fact it is still in effect." 

Vietnamese in America applying for green cards may not affected, but cardholders cannot sponsor their loved ones for permanent residency, he pointed out.

The number of permanent residency visas issued by the State Department fell 35 percent to 24,383 in March. 

The number of temporary visas issued also decreased by roughly a third. In the meantime, waiting is the only thing many people can do before reuniting with their family members.

Hoan possibly articulated their common concern: "If they told us it would take a specific number of months or years, we would feel at ease. Not knowing what will happen and how long we have to wait is a hardship."

 
 
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