Apr 22, 2020 - Politics & Policy

Trump temporarily bars some legal immigration due to coronavirus

Donald Trump speaking in the White House press briefing room.
Photo: Drew Angerer/Getty Images

President Trump signed an executive order on Wednesday banning some legal immigration for 60 days due to the novel coronavirus, beginning Thursday at 11:59 p.m. EST.

What's happening: The order will prevent foreigners from obtaining green cards to enter the country if they are outside the U.S. and do not already have valid visas or other travel documents — although there are exceptions.

What he's saying: "In order to protect our great American workers, I've just signed an executive order temporarily suspending immigration into the United States," Trump said during a press briefing on Wednesday. "This will ensure unemployed Americans of all backgrounds will be first in line for jobs as our economy reopens."

The order will not apply to:

  1. Immigrants applying for temporary visas.
  2. Legal permanent residents already in the U.S.
  3. Certain health care workers and health care researchers working to combat COVID-19, as well as their spouses and children.
  4. Applicants for the EB-5 investor visa.
  5. Spouses and children of citizens.
  6. Adoptees.
  7. Immigrants who are determined to be important for law enforcement objectives or for other reasons considered to be in the national interest.
  8. Members of the armed forces and their spouses and children.
  9. Special Immigrant visa applicants.

Between the lines: The order is yet another attempt by the Trump administration to drastically lower the number of people coming into the U.S. during the coronavirus pandemic. It follows years of the administration making it harder for legal immigrants and illegal border crossers hoping to enter the country.

  • The order would impact around 316,000 foreigners annually if kept in place, according to Migration Policy Institute’s Sarah Pierce.
  • "None of these people can apply for immigrant visas now anyway because of the public health crisis," Pierce said. Because the administration has justified the order by the economic downturn caused by the coronavirus, "we expect that this administration is trying to make more long term changes," she added.
  • But some immigration hawks were disappointed, hoping the order would have a broader impact, given Trump's tweet Monday night.

What to watch: Trump has asked administration officials to also look into temporary work visa programs "to assess whether additional measures should be taken to protect American workers," according to a White House press release.

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