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President Trump on Monday announced via Twitter that he would be signing an executive order to temporarily suspend immigration to the United States in response to the coronavirus pandemic. He later provided details of the order, which is much more limited than his initial announcement suggested.
Under the order, the U.S. will stop issuing permanent residency visas — commonly known as green cards — for 60 days. It will not affect temporary workers. There are reportedly exceptions for workers in “essential” professions and family members of U.S. citizens. The full details have yet to be released.
Trump said he made the decision to “protect the jobs” of Americans amid an unprecedented spike in unemployment caused by lockdown measures aimed at limiting the spread of the virus. Immigration has already been curbed significantly during the outbreak because of travel restrictions and a pause in most visa processing procedures.
Why there’s debate
There’s significant debate over whether broad bans on immigration would do much to benefit the economy’s recovery. Limiting restrictions just to those seeking green cards — who represent a fraction of the immigrant workforce — may have little to no impact on jobs, many economists say.
Trump’s conservative allies have argued that the order is a sincere, if limited, attempt to ensure that jobs are reserved for the more than 20 million Americans who have become unemployed since the start of the crisis.
Others see the order as more of a political tactic. Cutting immigration was a key element of Trump’s platform in the 2016 election. Doubling down on that strategy could serve to invigorate his base supporters and distract from the administration’s response to the virus, which has received significant criticism.
Some of the president’s liberal critics say he’s using the crisis as an opportunity to impose an anti-immigrant agenda that has been high on the Republican to-do list since long before the pandemic began.
The initial 60-day freeze on new green cards could be extended indefinitely depending on economic conditions, Trump said. He also said the administration was considering a “secondary order” that could further limit immigration down the road.
Limiting green cards won’t help unemployment at all
“Job loss has skyrocketed as the pandemic has shut down much of the country. And it’s hard to see how stopping immigration entirely would alleviate that fundamental problem, as not many people are likely immigrating anywhere at the moment, with travel coming to a halt and the pandemic being global and all.” — Sam Stein, Daily Beast
Protecting even a small number of jobs is worthwhile
“Even Democrats oughta figure the math on this — 22 million Americans don’t have a job right now. So why in the world would we be importing people to come in and take a job that 22 million Americans need?” — Mike Huckabee, Fox News
The order is part of Trump’s reelection strategy
“It’s no coincidence that his call for a ban on new immigrants dovetails with one of his signature campaign issues at a time when the vibrant economy he had planned to campaign on has cratered. This is about saving one job — the president’s.” — Editorial, Los Angeles Times
The pandemic is an opportunity to enact Trump’s wish list of immigration policies
“Mr. Trump’s real calculation here is political. White House adviser Stephen Miller has long wanted to shut down most immigration, legal and illegal. In the coronavirus he may have found his opening.” — Editorial, Wall Street Journal
Trump is looking for anyone else to blame for the crisis
“It's like Trump has a Magic Eight-ball stocked with scapegoats — immigrants, public health officials, governors, the news media — and he keeps frantically shaking it, cycling through his chosen blame objects, certain that eventually he'll find the right people to foist all his failures onto so he can scurry away, with zero accountability, as he has done all his life.” — Amanda Marcotte, Salon
The order isn’t nearly strong enough to protect Americans
“If Trump were the guy he promised to be, and the guy the media often demonized him as being, he would have done a lot more, a lot earlier, on restricting entry in order to minimize invasion of the coronavirus.” — Timothy P. Carney, Washington Examiner
The order is aimed at shoring up flagging support among conservatives
“The new ban is a propagandistic device designed to create the impression of action. It may succeed as chum for his base, but in a sense, that’s actually an admission of weakness.” — Greg Sargent, Washington Post
The restrictions will last long after the pandemic has ended
“The terribly high rates of unemployment that are likely to emerge out of the Covid-19 crisis will make it difficult for a potential Democratic President like Joe Biden to undo or easily unravel the disastrous impact of such an illogical move. The system of employment-based immigration that rewards technical expertise, hard work, research and artistic excellence is complex and interconnected — far easier to destroy rather than to reconstruct.” — Rafia Zakaria, CNN
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Photo illustration: Yahoo News; photos: AP