PRESIDENT TRUMP CONTINUES to rehaul immigration in the name of coronavirus. He signed the much-anticipated executive order barring some immigration to the United States Wednesday night, saying it needed to be done to protect American jobs.
“By pausing immigration we’ll help put unemployed Americans first in line for jobs as America reopens, so important,” Trump said at the White House. As of last week, 22 million Americans are newly unemployed as businesses remain shut down out of concern for the spread of COVID-19.
The order isn’t quite what he tweeted about on Monday night, stopping short of an all-encompassing ban on immigration, but instead barring the issuing of new green cards for the next 60 days. The order applies to foreigners seeking green cards, which provide employment, and relatives of current green card holders. In 2019, about 1 million green cards were issued, half of which were for new arrivals to the US.
The Migration Policy Institute, a nonpartisan think tank, estimates the order would block around 26,000 green cards monthly.
The order will not impact temporary workers, like agricultural workers who come to the US to help with harvesting crops on a H-2A visa. Last week, the Department of Homeland Security eased restrictions on farmers facing delays in getting approvals for those visas, which they sponsor.
US Citizenship and Immigration Services, the agency that adjudicates green cards, visas, and immigration documents, has closed its offices nationally and abroad due to the coronavirus, which is slowing down application processing.
Trump has already temporarily suspended travel from Iran, China, and many European countries that had coronavirus cases, in addition to his longstanding travel bans, which impact 13 Middle Eastern and African countries.
“The president’s latest immigration ban shows that the executive branch has too much power over immigration policies, and it’s time for Congress to step up and be the legislative check that our democracy needs them to be,” said Mohammed Missouri, executive director of Jetpac, a local nonprofit focused on increasing Muslim engagement in the political process, in an interview.
He said that the government should instead be focused on a national stay-at-home order and expanding health care benefits to the unemployed.
On Tuesday, before the executive order was even released, Gov. Charlie Baker said he disagrees with the president’s plan to issue immigration suspension. “It doesn’t make any sense and I don’t think it makes us any safer,” he said.
Rep. Richard Neal told MassLive that Trump’s Tuesday night tweet was unexpected.
“His announcement has even caught members of his administration by surprise,” Neal said. “During these uncertain times, I would urge the president to stay focused on COVID relief and not recommend a policy change that would be unprecedented in the history of the United States.”
Rep. Ayanna Pressley said the president’s move to “use this public health emergency to advance his xenophobic agenda is disturbing, but not surprising.”