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President Donald Trump has long wanted to cut immigration into the United States — and now coronavirus may have given him the perfect excuse.
In a late-night tweet on Monday, Trump said he would temporarily suspend immigration into the country through an executive order, purportedly to counter the spread of the coronavirus and protect American jobs.
“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!” he tweeted.
The White House gave no further details around the scope or timing of the proposed immigration ban, who would be affected, or the legal basis for such a move. Previous moves by the Trump administration to curb immigration — such as the so-called “Muslim ban” introduced early in his presidency — unleashed chaos at airports and faced numerous legal challenges.
Immigration into the U.S. has already slowed markedly due to the coronavirus, with restrictions on non-essential travel in place on the borders with Mexico and Canada, most visa processing on hold, and officials using emergency powers to expel thousands of migrants on the Mexican border.
According to the New York Times, citing several unnamed people “familiar with the plan,” the proposal could see Trump temporarily ban the issuing of new green cards, and deny permission for some people already in possession of visas to arrive — although exemptions could be made for workers deemed critical. The U.S. government recently eased rules to allow entry to more agricultural workers to help farmers pick their crops.
Critics railed against the proposal, accusing Trump of scapegoating immigrants — long a strategy of the nativist president — to distract from the failings of his own response to the pandemic.
“As our country battles the pandemic, as workers put their lives on the line, the president attacks immigrants & blames others for his own failures,” tweeted former Democratic presidential candidate Sen. Amy Klobuchar. “The order I’d like to see tonight? Testing. Instead he twists ‘the buck stops here’ into this: ‘the buck stops anywhere but here.’”
Rep. Don Beyer, a Democratic congressman from Virginia, was equally scathing. “From the beginning Trump has flailed about seeking someone to blame for his own failure. Obama. Governors. China. Speaker Pelosi. People of Asian descent. Immigration has nearly stopped and the US has far more cases than any other country. This is just xenophobic scapegoating.”
And former Democratic presidential candidate Julian Castro said the move was at odds with Trump’s push for states to reopen their economies and stoking anti-lockdown protests.
“You cut off immigration, you crater our nation’s already weakened economy… What a dumb move,” he tweeted.
“Nothing you do will make people forget that you have failed miserably to protect Americans from Covid-19.”
Trump’s announcement fueled fears among people whose life plans may be derailed by the sudden policy shift. “I have been waiting three years to bring my Lebanese husband, a biomedical engineer, into my country of citizenship. We were probably a month or two away from an interview for our spousal visa,” tweeted journalist and author Sulome Anderson. “I feel sick.”
The U.S. is currently the epicenter of the global pandemic, with more than 787,000 confirmed cases and more than 42,000 deaths, according to a tally by Johns Hopkins University.
Cover: President Donald Trump speaks with Vice President Mike Pence during a news conference about the coronavirus in the James Brady Press Briefing Room of the White House, Monday, April 20, 2020, in Washington. (AP Photo/Alex Brandon)