“In light of the attack from the Invisible Enemy, as well as the need to protect the jobs of our GREAT American Citizens,” Trump wrote on Twitter. “I will be signing an Executive Order to temporarily suspend immigration into the United States!”
White House Press Secretary Kayleigh McEnany said in a statement Tuesday that Trump is “committed to protecting the health and economic well-being of American citizens as we face unprecedented times.”
“As President Trump has said, ‘Decades of record immigration have produced lower wages and higher unemployment for our citizens, especially for African-American and Latino workers,’” she said. “At a time when Americans are looking to get back to work, action is necessary.”
Prior to the pandemic, Trump frequently boasted that Black and Hispanic unemployment numbers were near record lows. In her statement, McEnany did not address how halting immigration would curb the spread of the virus.
The U.S. has the highest number of confirmed coronavirus cases (over 800,000) and deaths (at least 43,000) of any country in the world.
As of Monday, by comparison, fewer than 9,000 known infections had been reported in Mexico, the top origin country of the U.S. immigrant population. China, the second-largest origin country for U.S. immigrants and where the virus was first documented in December, has recorded more than 83,000 cases.
It’s unclear how wide-ranging Trump’s order would be, and the White House and Department of Homeland Security did not immediately reply to HuffPost’s requests for clarification. Administration officials told The Wall Street Journal that it wouldn’t make substantial changes to current U.S policy. Still, the order will likely face legal challenges.
The initiative is expected to include broad exceptions for refugees, migrant farmworkers, health care workers and “any alien whose entry would be in the national interest,” Bloomberg reported Tuesday.
Trump has been forced to rein in his sweeping proclamations related to the outbreak several times before. The president has touted what he called a total “ban” on travel from China as cases of the coronavirus began to soar in the United States, but the mandate had notable exceptions for residents of Hong Kong, Macao and Taiwan, and for U.S. citizens and permanent residents. Many flights continued to operate for weeks, ferrying nearly 40,000 people to America from China.
The president has been moving aggressively to reopen parts of the U.S. even as cases of the virus continue to grow, despite warnings from some lawmakers and public health officials that doing so too early could prove catastrophic for Americans.
“We’re starting our life again,” Trump said last week while announcing a three-phase plan that governors could use to jumpstart their state economies. “We’re starting rejuvenation of our economy again.”
A day after announcing his guidelines to “reopen America,” Trump called for three Democratic-led states under stay-at-home orders ― Minnesota, Michigan and Virginia ― to “LIBERATE.” None of the three states meet the criteria for easing restrictions yet under Trump’s new guidelines, Maryland Gov. Larry Hogan (R) pointed out Sunday on CNN.
The president has expressed support for stay-at-home order protests that have popped up in more than a dozen states in the last week. He said Sunday during a news briefing that he believes “some governors have gone too far.”
But a majority of Americans have said they are worried the U.S. will return to normal too soon, according to recent polls.
The White House has already moved to enact some pillars of the president’s hard-line immigration policies during the pandemic. The U.S. has expelled more than 10,000 migrants to Mexico with minimal if any processing, citing the virus and saying doing so protects Americans’ health. Some of those people were asylum seekers looking for protection, according to reports.
“This is not about immigration,” Mark Morgan, the acting commissioner of U.S. Customs and Border Protection, said earlier this month, according to the Los Angeles Times. “Right now this is purely about infectious disease and public health.”
Human rights groups have decried the measures, calling them illegal and claiming the Trump administration is using the virus as a backdoor to enact the president’s priorities.
The Washington Post noted that if Trump’s immigration suspension order is signed, it would be a first in U.S. history, noting that even during the devastating Spanish flu outbreak in 1918, the U.S. let in tens of thousands of immigrants.
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