President Donald Trump signed an executive order on Wednesday barring immigration into the United States for 60 days.
“In order to protect our great American workers, I’ve just signed an executive order temporarily suspending immigration into the United States,” Trump said. “This will ensure than unemployed Americans of all backgrounds will be first in line for jobs as our economy reopens.”
“Crucially, it will also preserve our healthcare resource for American patients.”
The order is effective from Friday and broadly bars “the entry into the United States of aliens as immigrants,” with several significant exemptions. The order applies to aliens without a visa or travel documents who are outside the United States when the order goes into effect. The decree does not apply to permanent U.S. residents as well as spouses, children, and prospective adoptees of U.S. citizens.
Healthcare workers traveling to the country to battle the COVID-19 pandemic, as well as their families, are also exempt. The restriction also does not apply to some other groups, including aliens applying for the EB-5 Immigrant Investor Program.
The president said he signed the order shortly before walking into the White House Coronavirus Task Force press briefing on Wednesday evening. Trump noted that the order might be amended or extended based on the circumstances.
Trump had previously said the order is designed to protect American workers, millions of whom have lost jobs due to the shutdowns intended to stop the spread of the CCP (Chinese Communist Party) virus, which causes the disease COVID-19.
Amid the pandemic, much of the U.S. immigration system has already ground to a stop. Most visa processing by the State Department has been suspended for several weeks. Travel into the country has been restricted from much of the world.
The White House noted in a press release that Trump has asked administration officials to review guest worker programs to determine if additional action is necessary.
Recent polling showed that Americans are firmly in favor of limiting immigration during the health and economic crisis triggered by the CCP virus. A recent USA Today poll found showed 80 percent of the respondents favor a temporary pause on immigration. A Rasmussen survey found 70 percent of respondents agreeing that the government should place a temporary ban on foreign entry into the United States.
The United States, Canada, and Mexico this week also agreed to place another suspension on unnecessary border travel ending in mid-May. Commercial traffic and a wide range of “essential” workers are still allowed to travel freely.
The Department of Homeland Security, in confirming the development, said an additional 30 days would be added to the restrictions, meaning that it will end around May 20.
Mexico’s foreign relations secretariat confirmed on Twitter the agreement to extend the restrictions, saying it came “after reviewing the development of COVID-19 propagation in Mexico and [the United States].” Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau said the United States and Canada agreed to keep the border closed for another month. Still, he stipulated it would be likely much longer before the restriction is lifted.
Last month, the administration effectively ended asylum, relying on a rarely used 1944 law aimed at preventing the spread of communicable disease.
Jack Phillips and the Associated Press contributed to this report.