On Monday, Trump signaled that he would limit all immigration into the United States amid the spread of COVID-19. On Wednesday, Trump put the executive order into effect, which cuts off access to green cards for those currently outside of the U.S.
Some exemptions were made in the order, notably, for medical and other essential workers to combat the outbreak, spouses and minor children of American citizens, and certain others.
Part of the reasoning behind the restriction is economic, as 22 million Americans have filed for unemployment in the last month.
“By pausing immigration, we’ll help put unemployed Americans first in line for jobs as America reopens,” Trump said on Tuesday. "So important. It would be wrong and unjust for Americans laid off by the virus to be replaced with new immigrant labor flown in from abroad. We must first take care of the American worker — take care of the American worker.”
The immigration order drew criticism from Trump’s likely opponent in this year’s presidential election Joe Biden.
“Rather than execute a swift and aggressive effort to ramp up testing, Donald Trump is tweeting incendiary rhetoric about immigrants in the hopes that he can distract everyone from the core truth: he's moved too slowly to contain this virus, and we are all paying the price for it,” Biden said before details of the order were known.
Trump added that a restriction on immigration could also help healthcare capacity from being overwhelmed.
“This pause on new immigration will also help to conserve vital medical resources for American citizens. A short break from new immigration, depending on the time we’re talking about, will protect the solvency of our healthcare system and provide relief to jobless Americans,” Trump said.
Trump was asked whether the immigration restriction would help to fulfill a campaign promise of his to limit legal and illegal immigration.
“I’m not doing that at all,” Trump said. “I want — I want the American worker and the American — our American citizens to be able to get jobs. I don’t want them to compete right now. There’s a big difference when we have a full economy, and frankly, where some of the companies — we have many companies moving in, where they need actually — they need workers. “
One prominent House Democrat called Trump’s order “authoritarian.”
“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,” Joaquin Castro, D-Texas, said.