On Tuesday, President Donald Trump announced a temporary halt on immigration in what he claimed to be an effort to protect jobs for American citizens. More than 22 million people in the U.S. are currently unemployed due to the economic devastation that is a byproduct of containing the coronavirus pandemic. If approved, the proposed immigration suspension, which Trump also tweeted about Monday night, will remain in effect for 60 days, with a possible extension after that time is up.
"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 originally tweeted.
Trump explained his rationale to reporters at a coronavirus task force briefing on Tuesday: “By pausing immigration, we will help put unemployed Americans first in line for jobs as America reopens. So important. It would be wrong and unjust for Americans laid off by the virus to be replaced by new immigrant labor flown in from abroad. We must first take care of the American worker.”
But Trump has backed off of the all-encompassing ban he first suggested. The executive order, which could be signed as early as today, will not be the sweeping suspension to immigration the president initially wanted. While it will suspend new green card issuances, it makes concessions to maintain the majority of temporary work visas, including guest worker programs that provide temporary visas for jobs in fields like technology and farming, among others.
This change may have you thinking that Trump was convinced that his original idea was too draconian, and not a little xenophobic. But before you credit this to a renewed sense of compassion for immigrants, you should know that, according to the New York Times, it is likely a move to please business groups and executives who were upset at the way the initially proposed legislation threatened their access to foreign labor.
Trump didn't need business leaders to tell him what many studies have shown: Immigration has an overall positive effect on the American workforce and wages for workers, and restrictions on legal immigration are harmful in a variety of ways. But it is interesting how quickly the president changes his tune about the loyalties he has toward the American workforce once high-powered executives put any pressure on him.
While this about-face has probably angered some of Trump's most virulent anti-immigration supporters, they have little to fear: The president has still made many other restrictions on immigration masquerading as a response to the coronavirus. Before Tuesday’s announcement, the administration had already slowed visa processing, made a move to return asylum seekers and undocumented immigrants to their home countries, as well as expanded travel restrictions. The actions of the administration have led immigration advocates to believe that the Trump administration is using current events as an excuse to push forward stricter immigration policies that had been wanted long before the pandemic.
It is unclear what Trump's actual executive order will look like in its final form — or if the president even has the legal authority to suspend the entire green card program for months at a time. The only thing that is for sure is that the anti-immigration message that Trump has been spreading since his 2016 campaign is still a big part of his agenda.