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Trump blocks new green cards

After pledging to end immigration, President stops short of ending all work visas
US President Donald Trump at the White House.
US President Donald Trump at the White House.

Michael D. Shear, Zolan Kanno-Youngs And Caitlin Dickerson/New York Times News Service   |   Washington   |   Published 22.04.20, 07:38 PM

President Trump said on Tuesday that he would order a temporary halt in issuing green cards to prevent people from immigrating to the US, but he backed away from plans to suspend guest worker programs after business groups exploded in anger at the threat of losing access to foreign labour.

Trump, whose administration has faced intense criticism in recent months for his handling of the coronavirus crisis, abruptly sought to change the subject on Tuesday night by resuming his assault on immigration, which animated his 2016 campaign and became one of the defining issues of his presidency.


He cast his decision to “suspend immigration”, which he first announced on Twitter on Monday night, as a move to protect American jobs.

Trump said that his order would initially be in effect for 60 days, but that he might extend it “based on economic conditions at the time”.

“We can do that at a little bit different time if we want,” he said of a second executive order that could further restrict immigration.

While numerous studies have concluded that immigration has an overall positive effect on the American work force and wages for workers, Trump ignored that research on Tuesday, insisting that American citizens who had lost their jobs in recent weeks should not have to compete with foreigners when the economy reopens.

The decision not to block guest worker programmes — which provide specific visas for technology workers, farm labourers and others — is a concession to business groups, which assailed the White House on Tuesday. Jason Oxman, the president of the Information Technology Industry Council, a trade group, said in a statement earlier in the day that “the US will not benefit from shutting down legal immigration”.

Rob Larew, the president of the National Farmers Union, said even talk of restrictions on immigrant farm workers was disruptive. “It just adds to an already stressed food system,” he said.

“If we do not have enough workers at the front end of that, it just adds more challenges to folks that need to get the food,” he added.

Trump said that his “pause” in immigration “will not apply to those entering on a temporary basis”, a reference to the worker visas, though he hinted that could change.

The decision to maintain most temporary work visas is certain to please business executives, but it will disappoint anti-immigrant groups, which have long called on the President to put an end to the guest worker programmes they view as robbing Americans of jobs.

And it could undermine Trump’s message to voters, many of whom are angry about competition from the foreign workers brought into the US through those programmes.

The following is are questions and answers listed by the Reuters news agency:

Who will be affected?

Trump said the executive order would only apply to immigrants seeking permanent residency in the US, a process informally known as obtaining a green card.

The order will not affect people entering on temporary non-immigrant visas, he said. Such visas are used by tourists, business travellers and foreign workers.

The US Department of State issued roughly 462,000 immigrant visas in fiscal year 2019, which began on October 1, 2018. How many immigrant visa applicants might be affected by Trump’s planned executive order remains unclear.

Trump said the order will have exemptions, but did not provide details.

Trump did not say what the executive order would mean for people who have immigrant visas and jobs secured in the US but have not yet moved to the US.

What will happen to temporary foreign workers?

A senior administration official told Reuters the White House was considering a separate action that could deal with skilled workers who enter the country on H-1B visas and others affected by US immigration policy.

The potential executive order would include exemptions for people involved in responding to the coronavirus outbreak, including farm workers and those helping to secure US food supplies, the official said.

Trump said at the briefing Tuesday that he may issue a second order at a later date, but did not provide details.

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