President Donald Trump declared in a tweet late Monday night that he intends to sign an executive order “temporarily” banning all immigration to the U.S. amid the Covid-19 outbreak, an announcement rights groups condemned as a shameful attempt to scapegoat immigrants that will do nothing to safeguard either Americans’ health or 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!” Trump wrote. The president did not provide a timeline for the order or any details as to how it would be implemented.
Charanya Krishnaswami, Americas advocacy director at Amnesty International USA, said in response to Trump’s tweet that “when you’re a xenophobe, bans on migration are the only tired, failed, hateful solution you can think of.”
“Suspending immigration won’t make the U.S. — which currently leads among COVID cases worldwide — safe,” said Krishnaswami. “Our policies need to be grounded in public health, not bigotry.”
The New York Times, citing anonymous people familiar with the president’s plan, reported that “a formal order temporarily barring the provision of new green cards and work visas could come as early as the next few days.”
“Under such an executive order, the Trump administration would no longer approve any applications from foreigners to live and work in the United States for an undetermined period of time, effectively shutting down the legal immigration system,” the Times noted. “Workers who have for years received visas to perform specialized jobs in the United States would also be denied permission to arrive, though some workers in some industries deemed critical could be exempted from the ban.”
Immigrants make up a significant percentage of the U.S. workforce in a number of industries that are particularly crucial at this moment, from healthcare to agriculture.
Immigrants account for 18.2% of healthcare workers and 23.5% of formal and nonformal long-term care sector workers.
27.5% of direct care workers and 30.3% of nursing home housekeeping and maintenance workers are immigrants https://t.co/yg7luO2Q4T https://t.co/RO03hbeWYt
— Catherine Rampell (@crampell) April 21, 2020
Given that immigration to the U.S. has already been sharply curtailed by the Trump administration during the coronavirus crisis, observers said the president’s announcement may be little more than an effort to rile up his base in an election season by attacking a vulnerable target.
“Immigrants are Trump’s punching bag,” said José Alonso Muñoz of United We Dream, “and honestly it’s fucking exhausting.”
Xenophobia, racism, and ethnic cleansing have been part of this administration’s agenda since day 1. It’s truly awful that they are using a pandemic to their advantage.
All we have is each other. We won’t be stopped! ✊🏽✊🏿✊🏾
— United We Dream (@UNITEDWEDREAM) April 21, 2020
The Intercept’s Murtaza Hussain tweeted that Trump is “getting absolutely desperate trying to rally the base by ‘banning immigration’ during a period when the entire planet is shut down and almost no one even capable of immigrating.”
“He’s going to have keep upping the ante over the next six months in the face of pandemic misery,” added Hussain.
The Trump administration has not hesitated to use the deadly coronavirus pandemic to advance longstanding right-wing policy goals — from union-busting rules to sweeping regulatory relief for the oil and gas industry — and critics said the president’s tweet Monday night represents more of the same.
“This is Donald Trump and Stephen Miller’s dream come true,” said progressive advocacy group Indivisible, referring to the president’s xenophobic senior adviser. “And yes, the cruelty is always the point. This isn’t about coronavirus or jobs. This is about this administration’s hate for immigrants.”
Thomas Kennedy, a fellow at advocacy group Community Change, tweeted that Trump administration officials are “exploiting coronavirus to continue their nativist agenda.”
“This is not going to help stop the spread of the virus,” said Kennedy, “and it’s going to reaaally hurt the economy.”