In a late-night tweet, President Donald Trump announced that he would be signing an executive order to suspend immigration into the United States. His supporters were quick to praise the move as either the fulfillment of pledges made or as a solution to limiting the spread of the Coronavirus. While further details have not yet been released, the media pushback has begun in earnest.
The president tweeted:
“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!”
Is this a sensible policy during a time when emergency services and hospitals are overwhelmed? Or will it be cast as Trump attempting to win support as the 2020 election approaches?
Senator Tom Cotton (R-AR), a fierce critic of China’s role in the Coronavirus crisis, was quick to defend the president, suggesting that the only way to reinvigorate the economy was to put American workers first. He said:
“22 million Americans have lost their jobs in the last month because of the China virus. Let’s help them get back to work before we import more foreigners to compete for their jobs.”
The director of immigration studies at the Cato Institute, Alex Nowrasteh, pointed out that despite the almost inevitable attempts to overturn this executive order in the courts, the president likely does have the authority to carry it out. He cited Title 42 of the U.S. Code that enables the president to halt immigration for health reasons.
Opponents Speak Out
Advocates of open borders were quick to pounce. The executive director of the National Immigration Forum, Ali Noorani, wrote:
“This is not about the policy. It is about the message the president wants to send. He wants people to turn against ‘the other.’ And, regardless of the valuable contributions immigrants are making to the response and recovery, he sees immigrants as the easiest to blame.”
Representative Joaquin Castro (D-TX) followed suit, suggesting that President Trump was attempting to deflect attention:
“This action is not only an attempt to divert attention away from Trump’s failure to stop the spread of the coronavirus and save lives, but an authoritarian-like move to take advantage of a crisis and advance his anti-immigrant agenda. We must come together to reject his division.”
Is this forthcoming executive order as strict or as controversial as opponents suggest? In the United Kingdom, despite much of the population being permitted to leave their homes for only one hour per day, flights into the country have continued apace. The Secretary of State for Health and Social Care, Matt Hancock, revealed that around 15,000 people a day are still entering the country without any form of testing or health screening. When the stated aim of a lockdown is to prevent the spread of the virus so as not to overwhelm health services, the curtailing of immigration appears to many to be a good starting point.
With the economy suffering under the impact of COVID-19, having to expend fewer resources on newcomers will lighten the load on an overburdened system, improving the care given to those already in the country. It may be partly a political decision, but the likelihood is that American health and wealth have a better chance of recovery if immigration is limited in the short term.
Read more from Mark Angelides.