How does closing the borders of a country that is the epicenter of a pandemic help? It doesn’t, but the American president knows an opportunity when he sees one.
Last Monday night, Donald Trump announced his intentions to close the doors of the United States to immigrants who want to come and live and work, arguing to “protect” citizens’ jobs.
“In light of the attack from the Invisible Enemy, as well as the need to protect the jobs of our GREAT American Citizens,” the president wrote on Twitter,“I will be signing an Executive Order to temporarily suspend immigration into the United States!”
With no intention of echoing presidential misinformation — and quoting Rachel Maddow’s words: “Look at what they do; not what they say,” — it’s safe for us to say that the Trump administration doesn’t need an executive order for something it has been doing for months.
Since the CDC communicated the scope of COVID-19 to the government, not only have Republican senators sold their stocks, but immigration agencies have “aggressively” restricted immigration, according to The Washington Post.
“Even before the tweet, it had expanded travel restrictions, slowed visa processing and moved to swiftly bar asylum seekers and undocumented immigrants from entering the country, alarming immigration advocates who have said that Mr. Trump and his advisers are using a global pandemic to further hardline immigration policies,” the Post adds.
What the president’s announcement does imply is that a formal order temporarily suspending the issuance of new green cards and work visas “could come as early as the next few days,” said people familiar with the plan to the media.
This would effectively be a shut down of the legal immigration system.
While administration officials are in the process of drafting the executive order, Trump is expected to sign a document within the next few days allowing for the temporary halt of the issuance of new green cards and work visas, “steps that had already effectively been in place amid the coronavirus pandemic,” CNN explained.
A second administration official told CNN the executive order will be a “temporary 120 days or so” halt on “some” work visas to mitigate some of the unemployment concerns related to the pandemic.
Measures on other issues such as family reunification and possible exemptions — such as for farm workers or health care providers — are unknown, and officials “were also weighing expanded travel restrictions beyond the current bans in place from China and Europe,” officials said.
After closing borders, expelling asylum seekers and calling for chaos against the quarantine imposed by some states, the president continues to divert attention from his administrative negligence.
“Tens of thousands of Americans are dying while Trump is taking advantage of a global pandemic to advance a racist agenda. Families will be separated,” wrote the Families Belong Together coalition on Twitter. “People will suffer. This must be reversed immediately.”
“While thousands of Americans are dying from the coronavirus and an unprepared federal government, Trump is trying to take the blame off himself and put it on the immigrants,” said Paola Luisi, co-director of the organization in a statement.
“We won’t let them distract us. We are going to unite as a people and fight for all families, no matter where they come from, no matter the color of their skin. Let’s be clear: we will not forget Trump’s criminal behavior during this national emergency,” she added.
For its part, the Democratic leadership was quick to respond to the president’s move, noting that it coincides with the release of the new figure of 42,000 deaths from COVID-19 in the United States, according to the Johns Hopkins’ Coronavirus Resource Center.
“Tonight we have crossed 790,000 infections and 42,000 dead. This corrupt buffoon will [sic] try any poisonous distraction and blame anyone to deflect from his failures that are killing our fellow Americans,” tweeted Rep. Bill Pascrell, D-N.J.
A co-chair of the Congressional Progressive Caucus, Rep. Pramila Jayapal, D-Wash, tweeted that the president was “giving into racism & xenophobia.”
And Sen. Kamala Harris, D-Calif, said Trump has “failed to take this crisis seriously from day 1. His abandonment of his role as president has cost lives.”
It seems then that the only figures that matter to the president are in his approval rating, which continues to plummet, forecasting a difficult battle in the November presidential elections.