Trump’s Latest Immigration Scare Is More Bluster Than Substance

Amid high disapproval ratings of President Donald Trump’s handling of the COVID-19 pandemic, he has once again resorted to xenophobic scapegoating of immigrants – his favorite target to rally his core base of right-wing die-hards to remain loyal to him.

The president’s latest assault on immigrants was so ill-conceived, abrupt and confusing that it left everyone – immigration advocates, his anti-immigrant base, even his own administration and departments handling immigration – confused.

It’s as if he came up with the idea out of the blues, then scrambled to craft a policy that ultimately doesn’t change much.

The chain of events unfolded this way.

Monday, April 20, he pledged on Twitter to end immigration temporarily during the pandemic. He tweeted late that evening: “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!”

The tweet set off an immediate firestorm as most immigrant advocates took it to mean all immigration. The business community also raised concern, particularly employers of the farming and tech industries that heavily rely on foreign workers. The food supply stream certainly should not be experiencing disruption of any kind during this critical time. The farm industry made that clear to the president immediately.

Tuesday, April 21, at the White House Coronavirus Task Force briefing, Trump said the immigration suspension would only apply to those seeking legal permanent residency, commonly known as “green cards.” He said the order would not apply to temporary work visas which would be taken up later, and reiterated the need to protect workers.

“By pausing immigration, we will help put unemployed Americans first in line for jobs as America reopens,” Trump said.

Wednesday, April 22, he signs a proclamation on immigration to restrict some people (new entrants who do not already have visas or other travel documents) from entering the country over the next 60 days, but not as he said on Monday or Tuesday.

The order doesn’t include stopping some applications for permanent residence. It exempts any children or spouses of U.S. citizens; any spouses of U.S. military; most temporary visitors and potential refugees and asylum seekers; does not change the status of immigrants already in the U.S., exempts temporary workers such as physicians and nurses, and other workers.

Immigrant advocates can take a temporary sigh of relief that the proclamation wasn’t as broad as originally expected.

Ultimately, the President backtracked because the country needs immigrants (farmers, physicians, nurses, tech-workers) to help with the fight against the coronavirus.

Americans should remember this fact after the COVID-19 pandemic is over – that immigrants played a vital role during this crisis.

On top of this, a proclamation was unnecessary to begin with because the State Department, which processes immigration applications outside of the country, and the U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services, which processes applications inside the country – both have largely suspended their services due to the coronavirus lockdown.

Not to mention, the President’s excuse of protecting American workers as the reason for the proclamation, goes against numerous studies that have concluded immigrants typically don’t compete with U.S.-born workers for jobs.

Many in his own administration and departments are still unclear what this new proclamation will do, nor have they been consulted prior to Monday, April 20th. They were blindsided perhaps because Trump himself surprised himself and came up with the idea on a whim, one late Twitter night.

What was this whole roller coaster ride about? Rhetoric and political campaigning?

What did it cost us? Undue, unnecessary anxiety for all immigrants and their families and supporters.

The danger is: just as Trump perhaps stumbled his way into creating this proclamation, he could suddenly one day create another proclamation that could be devastating as he originally suggested.

This is what life under Trump’s leadership has been like. Freewheeling. Disorderly. Impulsive.

He has already said, “It (his Executive Order) might be modified. It could be modified next week, in two weeks. It could be modified in two months,” Trump said.

His mentioning that it could be modified any time, again ad lib, “next week, in two weeks, in two months,” – is outright cruel and unfair. We’re talking about lives here, immigrants who have been waiting years for their papers to be settled.

This is not how a president should be making policy. It’s more like the work of a madman. And unfortunately, our immigrant population and their families must suffer from his madness and political opportunism.


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