By Alex Pappas-Fox News
“In order to protect our great American workers, I’ve just signed an executive order temporarily suspending immigration into the United States,” the president said during the coronavirus taskforce briefing at the White House. “This will ensure that unemployed Americans of all backgrounds will be first in line for jobs as our economy reopens.”
Trump had said earlier this week that immigration would be suspended for at least 60 days in order to make sure Americans laid off during the coronavirus pandemic are “first in line” for new jobs. Trump has said the ban would be reevaluated after he looks at unemployment and economic figures.
Fox News is told the 60-day pause will apply to Green Card awardees who are currently overseas. These are people who would be coming into the country via the State Department program.
This includes people awarded permanent residence under the diversity lottery, work green cards and chain migration. People who are seeking Green Cards under US Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) are already in the country, so they are not subject to the pause.
While a hard stop on immigration would normally affect millions of people, much of the immigration system has already ground to a halt because of the pandemic.
Almost all visa processing by the State Department has been suspended for weeks. Travel to the U.S. has been restricted from much of the globe. And Trump has used the virus to effectively end asylum at U.S. borders, including turning away children who arrive by themselves and putting a hold on refugee resettlement — something Congress, the courts and international law hadn’t previously allowed.
Criticism of Trump’s new announcement has been swift, especially his timing during the pandemic. Ali Noorani, president of the National Immigration Forum, noted that thousands of foreign-born health care workers are currently treating people with COVID-19 and working in critical sectors of the economy.
Andrea Flores of the American Civil Liberties Union said Trump seemed “more interested in fanning anti-immigrant flames than in saving lives.”
But Jessica Vaughn, director of policy studies at the Center for Immigration Studies, which favors lower rates of immigration, said that eliminating millions of work permits and visas would “instantaneously create” new jobs for Americans and other legal workers — even though most businesses are shuttered because of social distancing dictates and stay-at-home orders.
Trump on Tuesday, however, denied he was using the virus to make good on a longstanding campaign promise during an election year.
“This is common sense the American people can very well understand when Americans need jobs, Americans must come first,” said White House spokeswoman Kayleigh McEnany.
“The president’s immigration policy just makes sense,” agreed Trump campaign spokesman Tim Murtaugh. With 22 million Americans applying for unemployment, he asked, “why would you in good conscience introduce brand new competition for them?”
And Trump’s campaign showcased the move in an email blast to supporters that read: “PRESIDENT TRUMP WILL SIGN AN EXECUTIVE ORDER TO TEMPORARILY SUSPEND IMMIGRATION.”
Fox News’ John Roberts, Andrew O’Reilly, Gregg Re and The Associated Press contributed to this report.
Alex Pappas is a senior politics editor at FoxNews.com.