US President Donald Trump said he will temporarily suspend all immigration to the United States because of the coronavirus outbreak.
Trump referred to the “Invisible Enemy” in a late night tweet on Monday, a phrase he has used to describe the virus that has killed more than 42,000 people out of more than 787,370 confirmed infections in the US.
He said the move would protect Americans’ jobs after almost 22 million people in the US were put out of work.
“In light of the attack from the Invisible Enemy, as well as the need to protect the jobs of our GREAT American Citizens, I will be signing an Executive Order to temporarily suspend immigration into the United States!” Trump tweeted, without providing details.
In light of the attack from the Invisible Enemy, as well as the need to protect the jobs of our GREAT American Citizens, I will be signing an Executive Order to temporarily suspend immigration into the United States!— Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) April 21, 2020
The announcement stood in contrast to Trump’s recent messages of cautious optimism about the country soon re-emerging from weeks of lockdowns designed to contain the virus.
Trump has repeatedly tried to play down the severity of the outbreak since its arrival in the United States, and his push to reopen the economy has put him at odds with some of the nation’s governors and, at times, his top health experts.
Trump did not hint at making any drastic immigration moves during his lengthy daily coronavirus news briefing earlier Monday evening. Immigration has largely taken a back seat during the pandemic as the president hopes to salvage a strong economy that had become one of his major campaign points in the lead-up to the November election.
Trump has previously boasted that closing the borders to foreigners travelling from China demonstrated his administration‘s serious and early response to the threat from the coronavirus. International travel has come to a virtual standstill as countries across the globe have imposed travel restrictions to prevent the spread of the disease.
Trump’s tweet did not make clear what specific action he would take: he could simply suspend entries for a period of time, or cancel a specific programme altogether for the year.
The Department of Homeland Security is still drafting the executive order, according to three people familiar with the situation, Politico reported.
One possibility that has been discussed is an exemption for temporary guest workers, including those who work on farms.
When asked what promoted the decision, a top DHS official responded: “22 million unemployed Americans and counting due to Covid-19”.
Trump campaigned for office on a platform of immigration scepticism and has made policies restricting immigration central to his presidency.
His administration has already barred travel from the European Schengen Area, China, Iran, Ireland and the United Kingdom.
“[Trump] can continue to win support from the conservative, anti-immigrant voters with such moves,” said Xiaoyu Pu, a political science expert at the University of Nevada, about the US president’s latest bid to halt immigration.
“The president’s executive orders are usually short-term measures, just like the previous ones that targeted Muslims – and it might again face legal challenges as the US has very complex immigration laws and regulations.
“But it would not bother him much, as creating controversies and taking advantage of such situations has always been Trump’s forte.”
Trump repeatedly promised during his election campaign to implement a complete ban on Muslims entering the US, and announced his first package of travel bans and restrictions shortly after taking office in January 2017.
The move outraged critics and was struck down by a US federal court which ruled it amounted to religious discrimination. The administration moved a second version of the policy in March 2017, which was struck down again for similar reasons.
But the third version of the policy was upheld by the US Supreme Court in June 2018 in a 5-4 ruling that affirmed the president had broad power to set immigration policy based on national security justifications.
Critics contend that Trump is using this crisis to further his “America First” policies that have long been focused on making it more difficult for foreigners to live and work in the US.Trump’s order comes as protesters in various states have taken to the streets and state capital steps to demand that businesses start opening back up soon.
“You cut off immigration, you crater our nation’s already weakened economy,” former Democratic presidential candidate Julian Castro said in a tweet. “What a dumb move.”
“Nothing you do will make people forget that you have failed miserably to protect Americans from Covid-19”.
Additional reporting Agence France-Presse and Tribune News Service.
Courtesy – SCMP