Donald Trump’s new executive order banning immigration to the United States will last 60 days with the chance of renewal, and it will apply narrowly to those seeking permanent immigration status, the US president said on Tuesday.
Trump said he would likely sign the order on Wednesday. He added that details would be revealed later on Tuesday or Wednesday.
Trump caused confusion late on Monday after announcing in a tweet that he would be banning immigration because of the coronavirus and to protect US jobs. He did not offer any details at the time.
Opponents saw the move as an attempt to use the crisis to fulfil a long-term Trump policy goal of reducing immigration.
An official, speaking on condition of anonymity, said the order will include exemptions for people involved in responding to the coronavirus outbreak, including farm workers and those helping to secure US food supplies. Trump later on Tuesday confirmed that exemptions would be included, but did not elaborate on what they would entail.
Trump said that as the country begins to open up its economy, immigration flows were expected to increase, and the administration wanted to ensure that employers hire back furloughed and fired workers.
Other workers such as those on so-called H-1B visas could be covered in a separate action, officials previously said. Trump said that other orders were under consideration, but he was focusing on the initial order at this time.
He added that he would reevaluate the economic situation in 60 days to determine whether the order should be extended.
Trump won the presidency in 2016 in part on a promise to build a wall on the US border with Mexico, and immigration issues rile up his political base.
“As President Trump has said, ‘Decades of record immigration have produced lower wages and higher unemployment for our citizens, especially for African American and Latino workers.’ At a time when Americans are looking to get back to work, action is necessary,” White House spokeswoman Kayleigh McEnany said in a statement.
Research prior to the pandemic has shown that more immigrants add to the growth of the economy, and this spurs job growth.
The US has more coronavirus cases than any other country. Immigration advocates scoffed at the contention that cutting off immigration was being done to protect Americans’ health.
Immigration is effectively cut off anyway at the moment through border restrictions and flight bans put in place to stop the virus’s spread.
“I think this is a malevolent distraction,” said Neera Tanden, president of the Center for American Progress, a left-leaning policy institute in Washington, DC.
Others said the proposed ban amounted to “xenophobic scapegoating”.
Al Jazeera and news agencies