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Coronavirus: Trump to suspend immigration into United States

US president says he will sign decree to temporarily suspend immigration in bid to 'protect the jobs'
Immigration advocates were quick to denounce Trump's rhetoric as divisive (Reuters)
By in
Washington

US President Donald Trump has said he will suspend immigration into the United States to "protect" American jobs during the downturn of the economy amid the coronavirus outbreak. 

"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!" Trump wrote on Twitter late on Monday.

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The president did not provide any details about the executive order, but immigration advocates were quick to denounce his rhetoric as divisive.

"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," Democratic Congressman Joaquin Castro wrote on Twitter.

"We must come together to reject his division."

Abed Ayoub, the legal director of the American-Arab Anti-Discrimination Committee (ADC), said while we still do not know how the new ban will work exactly, it fits into Trump's plan of blaming immigrants.

"The strategy from Trump is clear - he is scapegoating immigrant communities for the COVID-19 pandemic," Ayoub told Middle East Eye. 

"The reality is his administration has not done nearly enough to address the pandemic. Rather than throw xenophobic bait to his base, he should focus on increasing testing and working with governors to ensure we move past this crisis."

Trump's critics also pointed to the role immigrants have played in fighting the pandemic. A 2018 study found that one in four doctors in the US is foreign born.

"President Trump now seeks to distract us from his fumbled Covid-19 response by trying to put the blame on immigrants," said Congressman Jerry Nadler. "The truth is many immigrants are on our front lines, protecting us as doctors, nurses, health aids, farmworkers, and restaurant workers."

Trump's 'silly stunts'

Trump's immigration tweet comes as he continues to voice support for right-wing activists protesting against social distancing guidelines across the country in public demonstrations that health experts say may help further spread the virus.

The US has been hit hard by Covid-19, with the death toll passing 42,000 on Monday.

The novel virus has also brought the economy to a halt, with unemployment skyrocketing by 22 million people and entire industries facing existential challenges. 

Reports about the implications of Trump's anti-immigration executive order varied late on Monday.

'Rather than throw xenophobic bait to his base, he should focus on increasing testing and working with governors to ensure we move past this crisis'

- ADC's Abed Ayoub on Donald Trump

The New York Times reported that the decree would ban issuing new green cards and work visas indefinitely. But according to the Wall Street Journal, the order would not have any major effects, as visa processing has already been paused because of the pandemic. 

Trump had started his tenure in the White House in 2017 by imposing a ban on several Muslim-majority countries, having vowed to ban all Muslims from entering the US when he was a candidate.

Over the weekend, Trump was also accused of stoking Islamophobia for retweeting a post that Muslims would get preferential treatment from local authorities when it comes to enforcing stay-at-home orders during Ramadan. 

"At a time when we need to work together no matter our background, Trump intentionally divides us on the basis of background. At a time when we need smart solutions, Trump pulls silly stunts," Frank Sharry, founder of America's Voice, an immigration reform group, wrote on Twitter late on Monday. 

"At a time when we need to focus on saving lives, Trump focuses on winning re-election."