“In light of the attack from the Invisible Enemy, as well as the need to protect the jobs of our GREAT American Citizens, I will be signing an Executive Order to temporarily suspend immigration into the United States!” Trump wrote in a Twitter post late Monday.
White House press secretary Kayleigh McEnany added in a statement: “President Trump is committed to protecting the health and economic well-being of American citizens as we face unprecedented times. At a time when Americans are looking to get back to work, action is necessary.”
Trump has repeatedly used the term “invisible enemy” to describe the CCP (Chinese Communist Party) virus, also known as the novel coronavirus. The virus causes COVID-19, a disease linked to tens of thousands of deaths in the United States, which has already suspended most travel from China, South Korea, Iran, and most of Europe.
National security adviser Robert O’Brien on Tuesday said Trump’s immigration order is similar to limits on travel from China to the United States the president put into place on Jan. 31.
“We’re trying to do everything, the president’s trying to do everything he can to put the health of the American people first during this crisis,” O’Brien said in an appearance on Fox News.
“So this is one step. It’s not dissimilar to the restrictions on travel from China that he implemented back on Jan. 29 at the very outset of this public health crisis.”
Top health experts, including Dr. Anthony Fauci, have said restricting travel from China helped slow the introduction of the CCP virus into the United States.
Asked about Trump’s reference to jobs, O’Brien added: “There’s been an economic cost here, too, and the president’s looking out for Americans on both fronts at every turn.”
Tens of millions of Americans have lost their jobs due to the strict lockdown measures announced by most governors last month.
Thomas Homan, Trump’s former acting director of Immigration and Customs Enforcement, sounded a similar theme, telling Reuters: “It makes sense to protect opportunities for our workforce while this pandemic plays out.”
“It’s really not about immigration. It’s about the pandemic and keeping our country safer while protecting opportunities for unemployed Americans,” he added.
In mid-March, the country suspended all routine visa services, for both incoming and outgoing travel, for most countries due to the CCP virus pandemic.
It was not immediately clear what immigration programs will be affected by Trump’s eventual order.
The president’s announcement comes as the United States, Canada, and Mexico moved to extend their own CCP virus-related travel restrictions for another month.
The announcement also comes as U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services amended certain requirements for the H-2A Temporary Agricultural Workers visa to help American agricultural employers maintain enough migrant labor to keep the country’s food supply chains moving.
“Under this temporary final rule, all H-2A petitioners with a valid temporary labor certification can now start employing certain foreign workers who are currently in the United States and in valid H-2A status immediately after USCIS receives the H-2A petition, but no earlier than the start date of employment listed on the petition,” the USCIS announced.
“Additionally, USCIS is temporarily amending its regulations to allow H-2A workers to stay beyond the three-year maximum allowable period of stay in the United States. These temporary changes will encourage and facilitate the lawful employment of foreign temporary and seasonal agriculture workers during the COVID-19 national emergency,” the agency said.
More than 786,000 people have contracted the CCP virus in the United States, resulting in more than 42,000 COVID-19 deaths.
Most states are under stay-at-home orders as officials try to slow the spread of the CCP virus. Some are beginning to reopen, including Georgia, Texas, and South Carolina.
Trump on Thursday announced federal guidance to states for reopening.