On 22 April 2020 President Donald Trump signed an Executive Order which promised to place further bans on immigration into the United States during the COVID-19 pandemic. Perhaps unsurprisingly, this was a move which had already been announced on the President’s Twitter almost 48 hours prior.
The Executive Order prevents those who do not already have a Visa from legally migrating into the US for a current period of 60 days. Independent think-tank The Migration Policy Institute estimates that this will block around 26,000 applications monthly, or an overall figure of 52,000.
As of 23rd April, the number of those filing for unemployment in the US had reached 26.4 million.
The Order argues that it will be the most economically marginalised groups (the examples given are of those without college degrees and minorities) who will suffer the most from the strain COVID-19 is forcing onto the US’ economy. It thereby suggests that limiting immigration in this 60-day period will reduce the amount of ‘excess’ labour in the job market and aid those who have filed for unemployment return to work.
The Order closes borders, whilst also admitting that migrants are needed to support US’ struggling medical sector.
The Order notably exempts healthcare professionals (ranging from nurses to researchers) and their families from these restrictions. One cannot help but notice a slight irony within this. The principle of the Order is indeed conflicted. It simultaneously seeks to side-line the potential economic benefits of some immigrants, whilst admitting the benefit skilled migrants bring to the US’ medical sector (a point which the pandemic emphasises with intensity).
This focus upon improving domestic employment in the US during what promises to be a recession is obviously understandable. Yet, one cannot shake the feeling that this is simply not the whole hog. Instead, this Executive Order seems a light warning of harsher Immigration policy to follow.
On 13th March the US declared the virus a national emergency. History shows that circumstances as disorienting as these are often used as excuses to pass controversial legislation without having to suffer the public debate that a functioning democracy would bring in more settled times. The Order has a 60-day limit, yet is entirely open for renewal.
Electoral records from as far back as 1932 show that a strong economy promises re-election.
From as far back as Franklin Roosevelt’s election in 1932, records indicate that a prosperous economy promises re-election. The sudden damage to the US economy brought on by COVID-19 also marks political trouble for President Trump. The 2020 Presidential Election remains seated firmly in November, gleefully rubbing its hands and ready to judge Trump’s actions in the last 4 years.
This move seems to signal a 2020 Trump campaign based once again upon scapegoating.
Without a flying economy to rely on in the clash against Biden, one should perhaps see this Executive Order as a preamble to further anti-immigrant rhetoric. With the crises of the year in mind, one can be sure that he will be leading a Presidential campaign of deflection and defiance. President Trump’s election in 2016 was achieved with a heavy focus upon the US’ immigration policy, and perhaps an economy now in a sudden down-turn will mean that the 2020 election instils a more overpowering craving in the Republican leader for that old scapegoat.
Last modified: 23rd September 2020