In the news: Trump announces US immigration ‘suspension’

Whatever comes by way of an executive order, critics say the move is aimed at diverting attention from the president's weak COVID-19 response.

People enter the queue to cross the Mexico/US border at the El Chapparal border crossing in Tijuana, Mexico, in May 2019. (Vito di Stefano/TNH)

US President Donald Trump announced on Twitter on Monday that he plans to sign an Executive Order temporarily suspending immigration to the United States. He justified the move by saying the United States was under attack from an “invisible enemy” – referring to COVID-19 – and that it was necessary in order to protect the jobs of American citizens. 

Official details about what an immigration ban would look like, and whether it would be legal, are scarce. But initial reports suggest the Executive Order will likely suspend the issuing of work visas and new permanent resident permits, known as green cards, and could be signed as early as in the next couple of days. 

Critics say the move is a headline-grabbing attempt to divert attention from the Trump administration’s slow and disorganised response to the COVID-19 pandemic. As of Tuesday, more than 780,000 people have tested positive for the virus in the United States and more than 42,000 deaths have been attributed to the disease in the country, by far the highest tallies in the world. 

The administration has put in place a series of restrictive immigration policies since Trump took office in January 2017, and this latest move will be seen by critics as another example of how some governments are exploiting the COVID-19 pandemic to enact hardline migration and immigration policies that have nothing to do with public health.

Already, the Trump administration has used the pandemic to justify ending access to asylum at US borders and expediting the deportations of people who enter the country irregularly. These policies build on years of action by the Trump administration aimed at eroding access to asylum, ending irregular migration, and cutting down on legal immigration to the country.   

– Eric Reidy

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