President Donald Trump during a COVID-19 task force briefing on Tuesday said he will ban most immigration to the U.S. for 60 days in what he described as a “solemn duty” to blunt the sharp unemployment the nation has faced amid the pandemic.
“It would be wrong and unjust for Americans laid off … to be replaced by immigrants flown in from abroad,” Trump told reporters at the White House. “We must take care of the American worker.”
Trump, who has pushed for certain areas of the country to begin easing stay-at-home orders and social distancing guidelines that have slowed the spread of the virus but spurred widespread business closures, said he would evaluate economic conditions after the two-month ban to ascertain whether immigration would be reopened.
Trump noted the restrictions on immigration applied to those seeking green cards, not entry on a temporary basis. He said the new policy would be in effect following an executive order that he expects to sign on Wednesday.
Trump’s order would force the country to deny immigrants seeking most work visas, Bloomberg reported. The ban does not include health care or medical research professionals, or workers in food production and others “directly helping to protect the supply chain,” including farm workers, according to a draft of the order. Immigrants working in the U.S. technology industry on H-1B visas will need to provide updated certifications showing they aren’t displacing American workers.
“I have determined that we cannot jump start the domestic economy if Americans are forced to compete against an artificially enlarged labor pool caused by the introduction of foreign workers,” Trump said in the draft order. “I have determined that the entry of most aliens as permanent or temporary workers in the immediate term would have adverse impacts on the national interest.”
Democratic lawmakers on Tuesday sharply rebuked the president for the upcoming immigration executive order, which Trump announced without details in a 10 p.m. tweet Monday.
Sen. Bernie Sanders of Vermont, a former presidential candidate who recently endorsed former Vice President Joe Biden, accused the president of scapegoating immigrants.
“Donald Trump is once again vilifying immigrants to cover for his own incompetence,” Sanders said on Twitter. “The American people are tired of his xenophobia and racism.”
The COVID-19 outbreak has crippled the economy as businesses have been forced to close and Americans stay home and avoid gatherings. More than 20 million Americans have filed for unemployment over the last several weeks.
Since mid-March, the state of Massachusetts alone has received more than half a million unemployment benefits applications.
Trump said he hoped the economy would significantly improve in the next two months, which will be the key factor on whether he keeps the ban in place for another 30 or 60 days or even longer, he said.
The president also confirmed he was considering a second executive order that would eliminate some of the exceptions in the initial ban. He was adamant, though, that farm workers would not be impacted.
“I want our citizens to get jobs. I don’t want them to have competition,” Trump said, denying that he was pushing to limit legal immigration in addition to his administration’s crackdowns on illegal immigration. “We’re in a very unusual situation.”
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