President Donald J. Trump disembarks Air Force One Saturday, Dec. 12, 2020, at Steward International Airport in Orange County, N.Y., where President Trump will attend the Army-Navy football game nearby at the U.S. Military Academy in West Point, N.Y. (Official White House Photos by. Shealah Craighead)

TL;DR/short version:

There are a couple of thousands people with U.S. immigrant visas issued in September 2020 after a court order from a federal judge. They are barred from entering the U.S. until Presidential proclamation 10014 is in effect. Trump continued it on December 31, 2020 within hours of its expiration. Some of the people tried to enter on January 1, 2021 but were sent back. Now they are hoping that the new president Joe Biden will end it on day 1.

Long version:

It’s a New Year’s Eve for a family of three in a small European country. A man in his early 30s, a woman in her mid-20s and their 2 and a half year old daughter. They are waiting for the new 2021 with 4 packed suitcases and a backpack with their passports, each of them with a U.S. immigrant visa. The 2 year old plays and has fun like every other night before going to sleep. They are trying to get a picture of the three of them with the Christmas tree but the kid doesn’t feel like it. The parents wanted to share the picture and announce to their Facebook friends that they are expecting another baby in the spring of 2021 but when a toddler doesn’t want to do something you can’t force them to do it. Well, you can try, but you won’t like the result of that.

The kid finally goes to sleep at 10pm and the parents return to their original plan for the evening, and no, it was not celebrating New Year with drinks or something, stuck at home because of the pandemic.

They are looking at their phones, waiting and immediately checking each new notification from multiple Twitter accounts, while constantly refreshing Google News and the White House website. 

Matthis Volquardsen at Pexels

The story goes back more than 2 years ago, in November of 2018 when they submitted an entry for the United States Diversity Visa Lottery, which annually makes available 55,000 immigrant visas and aims to diversify the immigrant population in the United States, by selecting applicants from countries with low numbers of immigrants in the previous 5 years. Some 6 months later, in May of 2019 they found out that they had won the lottery and they started the procedure, collected all the necessary documents and waited for their turn to have the interview at the US embassy in their country. 

As the months passed and their number was getting current on the Visa bulletin they felt like it was time to show that they were really serious about the move and they sold their condo/apartment, paid back the bank for the mortgage and what was left went to the savings account. The plan was to show the consular officer that they would have sufficient amount of money for the start of their new life in the U.S. 

They moved to a rental and waited until March of 2020 when they got the date for their interview. It was in April and if they got the visa they planned to go to the U.S. in the summer.

But then, the coronavirus happened.

OhanaUnitedTalk page, CC BY-SA 4.0, via Wikimedia Commons

The world closed down and their visa interview was canceled. They told them to wait.

And they waited… 

President Donald J. Trump listens to a reporter’s question during the coronavirus update briefing Wednesday, April 22, 2020, in the James S. Brady White House Press Briefing Room of the White House. (Official White House Photo by Shealah Craighead)

But on April 22, 2020 the president of the United States, Donald Trump signed a presidential proclamation “suspending entry of immigrants who present risk to the U.S. labor market during the economic recovery following the Covid-19 outbreak“. It was for 60 days. And near the end of those 60 days, on June 22, 2020 he signed another proclamation “suspending entry of aliens who present a risk to the U.S. labor market following the coronavirus outbreak“. This one was valid until the end of the year. “This proclamation shall expire on December 31, 2020, and may be continued as necessary, ” the order said.

The family from our story almost gave up on their dream to move to the U.S. The DV Lottery program runs each fiscal year with interviews starting from October 1 and ending on September 30. With the proclamation in effect after the expiration date for the lottery for that fiscal year they would never go to their interview and they would never get the visas. 

Once again, they started searching for a condo to buy and to continue with their life in their home country. The man started working a new full time job in what was a career change in a new industry. He was aiming at this for a long time. His wife was pregnant again.

They found out that there is a lawsuit against the administration aiming at overturning the bans and continuing processing visas, but they weren’t optimistic about that. After all, they were not citizens, they were not lawful permanent residents, they did not have visas at the time, so why would a judge rule in their favor in a case against the president?

But on September 4, the unthinkable happened. U.S. federal judge Ahmit P. Mehta in Gomez v. Trump, recognized the particular urgency of the Diversity Visa plaintiffs’ situation and granted them injunctive relief. Judge Mehta ordered the Department of State (DOS) to make good faith efforts to “expeditiously process and adjudicate DV-2020 diversity visa and derivative beneficiary applications” and issue visas to those eligible by September 30, 2020 – the deadline for the Diversity Visa program. The judge said that Trump as a president had the power to stop people from entering the country, but not to stop issuing visas altogether. 

United States District Court for the District of Columbia, Public domain, via Wikimedia Commons

After a couple of emails and a call to the U.S. embassy in their home-country, the family from our story finally got a date for the interview. It was rescheduled for September 28, 2020, just two days from the final date possible. The consular officer asked them a few questions about the plans for their new life in the US, reminded them that the presidential proclamation is in effect until at least December 31, 2020 and granted them the visas. Few days later, they had their passports back with immigrant visas valid until late March 2021 but with the stamp “Subject to PP10014“, meaning that they were not allowed to enter the U.S. until at least the end of 2020.

Sdkb, CC BY-SA 4.0, via Wikimedia Commons

They followed the presidential election campaign and the aftermath of the elections. They read Trump’s tweets in real time on their phones. They waited for something to happen, for someone to say something about the proclamations. The man quit his full time job at the end of November, leaving December for final preparations for travel and packing. The only income they had left was from his part-time remote work. They bought plane tickets for the first weekend of 2021 and waited for a positive outcome.

Christmass came and Trump went to Mar-a-Lago to celebrate, to play golf and to tweet a lot. And with a few days left until the end of the year they hoped that if he plans to extend the proclamation, he will at least announce his decision a couple of days earlier, he will brag about it.. That’s what he did when he first signed the Proclamation in April and for the extension in June.

But all he was tweeting about was the election.

And the 2,000$.

And the January 6th rally that turned into a violent siege of the Capitol.

And even Fox News.

But nothing on the proclamation.

Oh, yeah… I would have shown you the tweets but I can’t, because of, you know, reasons… screenshot

On December 31, Trump unexpectedly took a trip back to Washington DC. The media was guessing the reasons behind this move. Maybe he wants to coordinate the efforts for overturning the election in the US Congress or maybe it was because of the tensions with Iran…

President Donald J. Trump and First Lady Melania Trump walk across the South Lawn of the White House after disembarking Marine One Thursday, Dec. 31, 2020, concluding their trip to Palm Beach, Fla. (Official White House Photo by Andrea Hanks)

And we are back to the beginning of our story. 

With the kid in bed and with 2 hours left before midnight in their country and with 8 hours left before midnight in Washington DC, the married couple was checking the president’s Twitter account, the White House website and Google News. There was nothing new. 

Two hours earlier Trump released a video talking about all of his success in 2020, and in one instance he talked about his entry ban – “we have secured our borders and paused immigration to protect American workers”. What could this mean? “Paused” was in past tense. Does it mean that he won’t extend the ban and they can enter the country starting tomorrow?

As the minutes were passing by and it was almost 10 minutes before midnight in their country, and 6 hours and 10 minutes before midnight in Washington DC the couple was scared. And not just of the thought that Trump can extend the ban, but also of the thought that he may not. “Are we ready to leave this weekend”, they were talking. 

Marina Hinic at Pexels

Usually when you are moving to a new place, let alone a new country, you definitely know exactly when you are going and you don’t buy refundable tickets, you don’t pay for the last month of rent that may end up being just another month of rent, you don’t let good rentals in the U.S. pass by because you can’t apply for them if you are not sure when you are coming, you don’t say goodbyes to friends and family that may end up being see you’s, you don’t… you don’t do all of this things. 

It was 11:53pm in their country and in most of Europe. It was 5:53pm in Washington DC (EST). The man’s cell phone light up with a notification. And he didn’t have to say anything, his wife knew by the look on his face. 

Tracy Le Blanc at Pexels

It was a tweet from an automated Twitter account that publishes press releases from the White House in real time. Trump has signed an extension to the entry ban until March 31, 2020.

They were reading the executive order for the second time as the musicians on the prerecorded TV show started counting. “10, 9, 8, 7, 6, 5, 4, 3, 2, 1… Happy new 2021!”.

Miguel Acosta at Pexels

Fireworks started in their neighbourhood and their daughter woke up. They went to bed to hug her, to comfort her and to assure her that everything will be fine. 

It certainly wasn’t for them at that moment. All of their plans were crushed with one stroke of a pen. 

They would have to reschedule the plane tickets. They would have to tell the landlord that they will continue to live in the rental. They would need to have a doctor’s notice that everything is okay with the pregnancy because they will probably need to fly in the last trimester. That is if Joe Biden strike down the ban on the first day(s) of his presidency. If not… if he waits a couple of weeks, the wife from our story may not be admitted to an airplane because it would be too late in the pregnancy. And if he let the ban expire on it’s own… their visas will expire in the meantime. Will they reissue them? Not from what they heard. Not from past years of experience regarding the DV category. Maybe with another court order, maybe not… And the stress… that is something that no pregnant woman should experience.

And this family’s story was not even the worst, not even the most stressful and not even the most expensive one.

There are a couple of thousands people all around the world in the same situation as this family. And many of them were waiting for January 1, 2021 to travel to the U.S. Many of them had already left their homes and for some two weeks were living in other countries before flying to the U.S. It was because of Trump’s other proclamation from March that was banning from entering U.S. territory all those who were physically present in the Schengen Area countries within the two weeks preceding their entry or attempted entry into the US. 

There were people in hotels in Turkey and Mexico with plane tickets to the U.S. for January 1. And because the proclamation was signed that late on December 31, many of them didn’t even know about it until the next day. After that press release there were some news articles about the extension of the ban, but there was nothing on the White House website for almost 16 hours after the press release and almost 10 hours after it’s supposed expiration date. Just from the Istanbul Airport, there were direct flights to Los Angeles, San Francisco, Chicago and New York City, all of them before the proclamation was posted on the White House website.

So, logically, this happened.

And this happened.

And all of this.

And also this.

There were many others who shared similar stories on online forums and chat groups…

We are not talking about illegal immigrants here. We are not talking about criminals, as Trump would like to say. 

We are talking about people who have done everything right, who have undergone procedures, who have paid a fee to the embassies, who have stood before consular officers and were approved immigrant visas to live in the U.S. We are talking about people with plans, with hopes and dreams. We are talking about people who have sold property, cars, valuable items so they would have enough money for their new life in the U.S.

These people now are hoping that come January 20, 2021, when Biden sits in the Oval Office, he will sign an executive order that will end Trump’s entry ban and they can come to the U.S. and finally become lawful permanent residents. 

Gage Skidmore from Peoria, AZ, United States of America, CC BY-SA 2.0, via Wikimedia Commons

Biden has said in the past that he will end the Muslim ban on day 1 and yesterday he said that he will introduce an immigration bill “immediately;” and that he will end “executive orders that the President has, in fact, initiated that are contrary to”, what he thinks, is either Trump’s authority, “and/or even if it is his authority, contrary to the interest of the United States on environmental issues and a whole range of other things”.

From this we can probably assume that the entry ban will go too, but Biden needs to say this.

Furthermore, immigration lawyer Charles Kuck on Twitter shared that according to a State Department case filing, more than 380,000 LEGAL immigrants are waiting for interviews at US Consulates.

Among them are tens of thousands of DV winners from fiscal years 2020 and 2021. For those from 2020 that still haven’t had interviews there are chances through ongoing litigation or with action from Congress. Those from 2021 are waiting the ban to be ended.

This is not just a number. These are human destinies. America is a country of immigrants. Biden must tell if and what he will do about this.

Written by: Jovan Postoloski

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