With news that President Trump will be signing and releasing his executive order on temporarily suspending immigration to the United States, pundits and politicians have been desperate to gather details. Specific information may be light on the ground right now, but one thing is abundantly clear: This will be an America First order.
At his daily presser, Trump outlined the root cause of his immigration suspension:
“It would be wrong and unjust for Americans laid off by the virus to be replaced with new immigrant labor flown in from abroad … We must first take care of the American worker.”
The two facets confirmed so far are that certain Green Card categories will be suspended and that farmworkers will be exempt. Whether there will be an extension after the proposed 60-day period is, as yet, unknown, but many suspect that will be directly tied to how far along states have gone in reopening their economies.
Hearts or Minds?
A proportion of Trump’s base will no doubt express frustration that the proposed executive order does not go far enough. At the same time, those who oppose the president will likely try to undermine his efforts by focusing on two aspects. The first is that under the present lockdown situation, much of the regular immigration flow is already curtailed. The second line of attack is likely to focus on family-based immigration sponsorships being cut; it is a heart-string approach that plays into the narrative that Trump is “uncaring.”
Roy Beck, founder and president of Numbers USA, highlighted the fact that with the recent unemployment figures, there will be a surge in job seekers as the nation emerges from the Coronavirus crisis. He said:
“With tens of millions of Americans who want to work full-time unable to do so, most immigration at this moment makes no sense, and the President appears to be moving in the right direction to curtail it.”
It would be difficult to argue that the proposed executive order is not going to benefit American workers. With 22 million Americans having lost their jobs in just four weeks, people are going to be fighting it out for the positions that give them the best chance of getting back on track when the nation gets back to business. If they have to compete with non-Americans for even the most basic of roles, it may have lasting deleterious effects on communities, towns, and cities all over the country.
When questioning inevitably turned to whether the president was engaged in simply furthering his immigration agenda, he replied:
“I’m not doing that at all. I want the American worker and our American citizens to be able to get jobs. I don’t want them to compete right now.”
The act of shutting down immigration routes to improve Americans’ employment prospects also has the side-effect of potentially reducing the spread of the Coronavirus and lowering the risk of a second wave of infections; the president not selling it as such leaves the door open for criticism. When Trump was elected in 2016, he promised that U.S. workers would be prioritized and that he would bring jobs back to the country; as the next election approaches, he will be judged on how well he has fulfilled this pledge.
Read more from Mark Angelides.