Harvard Law Experts Say Immigration Suspension Will Harm Children and DACA Recipients


Harvard Law School immigration experts said a recent executive order suspending immigration to the United States will especially harm young children and Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals recipients.

United States President Donald Trump issued the order on April 22, pausing immigration for a 60-day period with certain exceptions, including for health care workers temporarily migrating to assist with the ongoing pandemic. Its aim is to preserve healthcare resources and jobs for American citizens, according to the order.

“In the administration of our Nation’s immigration system, we must be mindful of the impact of foreign workers on the United States labor market, particularly in an environment of high domestic unemployment and depressed demand for labor,” it reads.

Law School professor Gerald L. Neuman ’73 — who teaches immigration and nationality law— called the order an abuse of power that would separate the children of permanent residents from their families. The proclamation includes an exception for children under the age of 21, but only if their parents are U.S. citizens.


“The proclamation appears to use the current crisis as a pretext for imposing limitations that the White House has proposed in the past and that Congress has shown no interest in adopting,” Neuman wrote in an email. “Moreover, even on its own stated rationale, there is no conceivable justification for suspending the immigration of young children of lawful permanent residents.”

The executive order also contains an exception for those already living in the county seeking naturalization.

Harvard Immigration and Refugee Clinic staff attorney Jason M. Corral said he thinks that exception significantly limits the order’s scope.

He added, however, that the suspension could incite xenophobia by directing blame for the economic crisis and high unemployment on immigrants. Corral also noted that the Trump administration issued the order shortly before the Supreme Court is expected to rule on the constitutionality of the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals policy, which offers temporary protections to hundreds of thousands of qualified undocumented youth across the country.

In Oct. 2019, Harvard and 18 other colleges and universities filed an amicus brief to the Supreme Court in support of DACA, warning its termination would damage the institutions’ recruitment and retention of undocumented students.

Corral explained that many DACA recipients receive permanent residency through a procedure called consular processing, in which a case is reviewed at a U.S. embassy abroad.

“We've seen some students be able to take advantage of implementing this, and they have to leave the country and come back in and process from the embassy abroad,” he said.

With the executive order suspending the processing of cases abroad, Corral voiced concerns that DACA recipients could lose another avenue to achieve residency.

“At the same time that we're seeing the possibility of DACA being taken away, it's also eliminating the opportunity for those folks to regularize their status in such a way where they would no longer need DACA,” he said.

Stephen Yale-Loehr, a professor of immigration law at Cornell Law School, echoed similar concerns in an online statement. He contends the executive order is likely to encounter legal challenges.

“An executive order suspending all immigration into the United States is outrageous and likely unconstitutional,” he wrote. “We have never done that before, even during world wars.”

Corral said that the United States should not impose harsh restrictions or uproot immigrants during a time of crisis.

“We should be trying to make sure that people are able to stay and continue working and help rebound the economy once we all do get back to work,” he said.

—Staff writer Kelsey J. Griffin can be reached at Follow her on Twitter @kelseyjgriffin.