Trump Says He’ll ‘Temporarily Suspend Immigration’ Over Coronavirus Fears

Details of the president’s plan, including who it would apply to, how long it would last, and when it would go into effect, are unclear.

President Trump, in a late-night tweet Monday, said he “will be signing an Executive Order to temporarily suspend immigration into the United States” in order to protect against the coronavirus and its economic toll.

Details of the president’s plan, including who it would apply to, how long it would last, and when it would go into effect, were unclear as of Tuesday morning.

The White House has not responded to NPR’s request for comment.

The move would be the broadest expansion of restrictions imposed in the U.S. since the outbreak of the pandemic earlier this year.

Trump previously banned most travel from China, where the coronavirus emerged, and from more than two dozen European nations, where it spread seemingly unhindered. He also closed the borders with Canada and Mexico for most nonessential travel. The pandemic has also sharply reduced travel worldwide.

Trump campaigned and won the presidency on a pledge to reduce illegal immigration, and the number of people crossing the southern border illegally has dropped since he took office. He has also slashed the U.S. refugee-resettlement program and cracked down on asylum seekers. Still, his administration has tried to move the U.S. toward a points-based immigration system, such as those used in Canada and Australia.

Jared Kushner, Trump’s son in law and senior adviser, had been quietly trying to resurrect discussions to overhaul the U.S. immigration system. Earlier this year, Kushner met with business leaders, immigration hard-liners and other interest groups with the goal of rolling out a new immigration plan once the president’s impeachment trial ended. The status of those talks is unclear; they were conducted against the backdrop of a booming economy, which needed workers to fill critical job openings.

But the pandemic has already essentially erased the 22 million jobs created over the past decade, perhaps changing the prospects of an attempt to overhaul of the immigration system.

Earlier Monday, a federal judge in California ordered U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement to “identify and track” every person in ICE detention at an elevated risk of complications from COVID-19 and to consider releasing those detainees, regardless of their legal status.

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