Trump’s Immigration Suspension Isn’t to Help American Workers, But a ‘Play For His Political Survival’

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President Donald Trump is blaming the coronavirus pandemic as a reason to completely stop legal migration to the United States for 60 days. The president’s proposed executive order, which has not yet been released, would prevent people from moving to the U.S. to live and work.

On April 20, Trump first made the announcement in a late-night message on Twitter that claimed the move would protect American workers. An estimated 26.5 million Americans are believed to have applied for unemployment in a five-week period, according to USA Today.

“I will be issuing a temporary suspension of immigration into the United States,” Trump said during the White House briefing on April 21. “By pausing, we’ll help put unemployed Americans first in line for jobs. It would be wrong to be replacing them with new immigrant labor flown in from abroad.”

The executive order, which is still being written, will be in effect for 60 days, according to The Washington Post. At that point, Trump said any need for changes would be evaluated “based on economic conditions” in the country.

“We want to protect U.S. workers as we move forward,” he said, adding, “some people will be able to get in. There will be some people coming in. But it’s a strong order.”

The U.S. Department of Homeland Security did not respond to The North Star’s requests for clarifications on who exactly would be affected.

Carlos Guevara, a senior policy advisor on immigration, policy and advocacy for UnidosUS, told The North Star that it’s “difficult to prognosticate” who exactly will be affected by the president’s proposed executive order because it has not been released.

The president confirmed that seasonal farm laborers would not be affected by the executive order. He went on to claim that the extreme immigration suspension “will help to conserve vital medical resources.” As of April 22, the immigration order was undergoing legal review, White House adviser Kellyanne Conway told reporters.

The Migration Policy Institute, which is based in Washington D.C., estimated the president’s order could affect between 114,000 and 660,000 people securing permanent residence if it were in place for a year, according to U.S. News & World Report.

“You know I think even more important than you know who’s in, who’s out and all that stuff, is the why. Why is this happening,” Guevara said, “I hope that it’s not lost…that whenever this president, you know things aren’t going his way, the regular, almost like clockwork attack he goes back to is attacking immigrants.”

He questioned what the administration actually seeks to accomplish “beyond what’s already the status quo at this moment. To be very frank, I think that we have seen a dramatic slow down in the number of cases being processed.” Guevara also questioned exactly how the Trump administration plans to carry out the proposed executive order.

A Move to Help Americans or a Political Play?

Guevara said he sees Trump’s latest immigration policy as a “play for his political survival.” The UnidosUs senior policy advisor said he found the focus on the numbers of those affected by the executive order “a little disingenuous” because so many facets of the legal immigration process have already been severely affected by the coronavirus pandemic.

“In terms of the actual impact, I don’t know how much different things will actually end up being than they currently are, which really underscores the earlier point that this is really about something else,” he said. Guevara said that the new policy is really just an attempt “to deflect from the poor, in our position, poor management of the current pandemic crisis.”

Those sentiments were shared by other advocacy groups, including the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU).

“There are measured and productive approaches to curbing the spread of COVID-19, namely ensuring equal access to testing and treatment; releasing individuals from ICE and CBP detention; and suspending interior enforcement,” Andrea Flores, deputy policy director of the ACLU’s Equality Division, said in a statement. “Unfortunately, President Trump seems more interested in fanning anti-immigrant flames than in saving lives. We cannot allow President Trump to exploit this pandemic to advance his racism and xenophobia.”

Will Trump’s Executive Order Face Legal Action?

The Trump administration has faced push back on previous hardline immigration-related executive orders. In 2018, the Supreme Court upheld Trump’s controversial entry ban against Muslim-majority nations and in March, the high court also allowed the administration’s dangerous “Remain in Mexico” policy to continue.

When asked if the ACLU would pursue legal action against the Trump administration over the proposed executive order, an ACLU spokesperson told TNS that the organization would not issue any further comment until it had a chance to review it.

Guevara was also reticent about speculating whether the Trump administration would definitely face a legal challenge.

“I think folks are going to look at the EO carefully to see, you know, what the opportunities are for that type of [response],” he said. “Certainly if it’s illegal and beyond the scope of the president’s power, I would be shocked if there isn’t a push to challenge it.”

He continued: “That said, I think a lot of folks are, you know, very cognizant that we’ve seen this playbook before from this president when he’s in trouble like he is right now.”

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About the Author

Nicole Rojas is a senior writer for The North Star. She has published in various publications, including Newsweek, GlobalPost, IHS Jane’s Defence Weekly, and the Long Island Post. Nicole graduated from Boston University in 2012 with a degree in print journalism. She is an avid world traveler who recently explored Europe, Asia, Australia and the Americas.