Coronavirus News: President Trump's tweet of total immigration ban sparks confusion

NEW YORK CITY (WABC) -- President Donald Trump's tweet Monday night saying he will sign an executive order to "temporarily suspend immigration" into the U.S. amid the COVID-19 outbreak provided few details and sparked confusion from immigrants and advocates.

Eyewitness News spoke with a couple who fear they may have to separate if such a ban is imposed, even as any potential order remains vague at best.

Lasha, a New York City resident and a naturalized U.S. citizen, proposed to his girlfriend, Elena, in Italy last month.

They were planning to marry overseas and return to the U.S. to start their life together.


"Lasha can't stay in Europe for more than 90 days, and so I will be banned from traveling to the United States," Elena said. "So we're going to be separated."

He said they're taking a wait-and-see approach.

"We're keeping optimistic," he said. "But obviously we're concerned."

Steve Maggi, founder of SMA Immigration Law in Long Island City, is representing the couple. He said an executive order of this kind is frightening for many of his clients.

"It penalizes a lot of family members of U.S. citizens who are currently in the process of getting their immigrant visas, meaning U.S. citizens sponsoring their spouses, their children or their parents," he said.

The president's tweet did not specify who exactly would be affected by a potential ban.

"I have a lot of clients who are within the United States also that are worried because it's not clear whether they will also be affected," Maggi said.

It's believed the executive order will include exceptions for foreigners who come to the United States to work in certain industries like agriculture and healthcare.

"I think it's another diversion." U.S Senator Chuck Schumer (D-NY) said. "The agencies don't even know what it is. No one knows what it is. Yesterday or the day before we were talking about WHO. I think the president ought to stop these diversions."

Trump has taken credit for his restrictions on travel to the U.S. from China and hard-hit European countries, arguing it contributed to slowing the spread of the virus in the U.S. But he has yet to extend those restrictions to other nations now experiencing virus outbreaks.

Due to the pandemic, almost all visa processing by the State Department, including immigrant visas, has been suspended for weeks.

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