Trump Tweets He Will Suspend Immigration Into U.S. During Pandemic

Apr 21, 2020
Originally published on April 21, 2020 8:20 am
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DAVID GREENE, HOST:

President Trump says he plans to temporarily suspend all immigration to the United States because of the pandemic and because he needs to, quote, "protect the jobs of our great American citizens," end quote. The president wrote that he'll be doing this by executive order. This was all in a late evening tweet.

And let's bring in NPR White House correspondent Franco Ordoñez. Hi, Franco.

FRANCO ORDOÑEZ, BYLINE: Hello.

GREENE: What do we know about this announcement, and what do we know about how this order might work?

ORDOÑEZ: The reality is we don't know much yet. As you noted, we just have that tweet. The president says he plans to do this via an executive order. But he did not say what the measure would entail, how it would be implemented or how long it would be in place. We did reach out to the White House for more information. We expect to learn more today.

GREENE: So one thing we do know, Franco, is that there's already a moratorium on most immigration because of the global pandemic. I mean, I know you don't know much at this point, but would an executive order temporally suspending all immigration in theory add much to what's already in place?

ORDOÑEZ: Yeah, that's right. I mean, the president has already taken several steps to restrict who can enter the country. He's imposed restrictions on foreign nationals who have traveled here through - traveled through China as well as through Europe. He's also largely blocked asylum-seekers from the southern border. But a source close to the administration told me that this is also unlikely - unlikely - to impact guest workers who come to the United States to work on farms picking fruits and vegetables. The administration, in fact, has actually taken steps to make it easier for some of these foreign workers to come here to help ensure that U.S. grocery stores remain stocked.

GREENE: Any idea, then, where the idea for this executive order might be coming from?

ORDOÑEZ: This was a surprise. And in some ways, it kind of seemed to come out of nowhere. But those close to the president on this issue of immigration have been pushing for it, including Laura Ingraham of Fox News, and they push for it in light of the record unemployment.

And also, immigration is a major political issue for this president. We can't forget that. And this administration has come under fire from some of these outside groups on the right because of the steps the administration has taken to bring in more guest workers that I mentioned at a time of record unemployment. The Department of Labor reports now that more than 20 million people - 20 million people - have sought unemployment in the last four weeks because of the crisis.

GREENE: So, I mean, we have seen so many orders from the president - policies, when it comes to immigration, go to court and become long legal fights. I mean, would we expect an order like this to go right to court?

ORDOÑEZ: I think it's very safe to say that we could see this in the courts. Advocacy groups are already likely speaking with their lawyers, asking about what legal options they have. I've already heard from groups like Amnesty International, who are very concerned about this action. But the reality is, in the past, courts have upheld moves by the president to limit certain kinds of entry into the United States. Just remember the travel ban restricting foreign nationals from arriving from several major - pardon me - several Muslim-majority countries. And Congress has also given the president broad authorities in terms of immigration and protecting the border. So there are still a lot of questions, and I think we're going to have a fight ahead of us.

GREENE: NPR White House correspondent Franco Ordoñez. Franco, thanks so much.

ORDOÑEZ: Thank you. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.