WASHINGTON: US President Donald Trump announced on Monday night that he will sign an executive order to “temporarily suspend” immigration into the United States, citing “the attack from the Invisible Enemy, as well as the need to protect the jobs of our GREAT American Citizens.”
The cryptic tweet convulsed prospective immigrants and immigrant families in the US and immigrant hopefuls and asylum seekers across the world who aspire for the so-called American dream, making the country the most powerful demographic magnet in the world. The United States admits about 1.1 million legal immigrants into the country every year, more than any other country. About 600,000 are new arrivals and about 500,000 are status adjustments of people already in the country.
The announcement also threw into turmoil the already-fraught careers and lives of more than three million guest workers and students – nearly a million from India — with its vague opacity. According to the US Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS), nearly three out of four current H-1B visa holders (
Some reports said administration officials are still working on the order and it will exempt those who are already in the US. But it was not clear what would happen to the hundreds of thousands who are already in the processing zone – graduating students applying for H-1B visas, and H-1B visa holders waiting for their permanent residency green cards to be processed. Trump’s tweet did not provide details on when the suspension would go into effect or how long it would last.
Although the tweet indicated the order he is considering would be temporary, critics saw the move as part of a gradual tightening of legal immigration into the country to freeze demographic changes, which many Republicans see as being electorally disadvantageous to them while favoring Democrats. A majority of new immigrant citizens have a Democratic persuasion and the Democratic Party itself is more diverse and immigrant-heavy.
If US immigration is temporarily suspended, legal experts foresee a plethora of lawsuit
Some others saw the move as Trump playing to his white conservative base in an effort to distract them from the messy economic situation the US finds itself in following the coronavirus pandemic. “Trump failed to take this crisis seriously from Day 1 and his abandonment of his role as president has cost lives,” California Senator Kamala Harris said, adding that “he’s shamelessly politicizing this pandemic to double down on his anti-immigrant agenda.”
Trump did not specifically mention the pandemic but the assumption is that his reference to the “Invisible Enemy” meant the coronavirus. Many saw the planned order as a ruse to completely shut down immigration completely, something his far right supporters have been demanding.
Others expressed concern that Trump was unfairly maligning immigrants and diminishing their frontline role during the pandemic. In fact, some reports indicate more minority and immigrant front-line responders are dying of coronavirus than native-born population. “President Trump now seeks to distract us from his fumbled COVID-19 response by trying to put the blame on immigrants. The truth is many immigrants are on our front lines, protecting us as doctors, nurses, health aids, farmworkers, and restaurant workers,” said New York Democrat Jerry Nadler.
Some critics also noted that far from immigrants bringing coronavirus to the US, the rest of the world feared Americans now, given that the US has the most Covid 19 infections in the world. Even if the virus came from outside, it has spread more widely and rapidly in the US than any other country and it is too late to shut the barn door. The United States currently has more confirmed coronavirus cases (800,000) and more deaths from it (42500) than any other country. One recent cartoon showed Mexicans building a wall on the southern border to stop Americans.