US President Donald Trump speaks during a Coronavirus Task Force press briefing at the White House in Washington, DC, on Sunday. Photo: AFP
US President Donald Trump on Wednesday signed an order to temporarily block some immigrants from permanent residence in the US, in light of the attack from COVID-19 and “the need to protect the jobs of GREAT American Citizens.”
Trump’s immigration suspension can be regarded as part of his strategy for re-election by exploiting the novel coronavirus outbreak.
In a bid to gain support, Trump has promoted his administration’s achievements in the economy and jobs, which have been severely hit by the outbreak – Wall Street has tumbled; and the lowest unemployment rate since 1969 before the outbreak rocketed from under 4 percent to at least 10 percent.
In this context, immigration would be one of the few cards left for Trump to win support from the electorates. From Trump’s perspective, making or signing any act is crucial to his re-election.
Why would immigration policy play a big role in Trump’s election? This is because anti-immigration is appealing in the US right now, and such sentiment is advocated by many of Trump’s supporters. Some white people worry more Latinos and Asians entering the US will impact the dominance of white Americans. The old generation of immigrants do not want to see more fresh ones because it would mean more job competition.
Trump’s immigration pause caters to their tastes. This is not the first time Trump has expressed an anti-immigration agenda, which can be seen in his anti-Muslim rhetoric and the construction of the US-Mexico border wall.
Many predict the US economy will be gravely influenced by the coronavirus outbreak. For example, Mohamed El-Erian, former CEO of investment powerhouse Pimco, said on Monday that the US economy could experience a double-digit contraction in 2020 because of the pandemic. It means an increasing number of Americans will lose their jobs.
Hence, to some extent, halting immigration can relieve some pressure in terms of employment. Protecting Americans’ jobs becomes a rational excuse to cover up Trump’s real intention – pursuing re-election.
Furthermore, Washington has been focusing on curbing the spread of COVID-19, and cannot spare additional efforts to process immigration. Based on the above, most Americans will support Trump’s immigration suspension.
Since its founding, immigrants have been the foundation of US prosperity. Some might say suspending immigration goes against the spirit of America. It may depend on how long the suspension will last. If it is a long-term policy, such judgement may be rational. But the suspension is said to be for 60 days and it may not last for a long time, either.
One of the pivotal factors in keeping the US economy resilient, and overcoming problems produced by an aging population is that this country has been welcoming well-educated, capable, skilled and young immigrants from around the world. These high-quality immigrants are still what the US needs. Therefore, Washington will not halt immigration in the long run.
Even if Trump has repeatedly expressed his anti-immigration rhetoric, what he does not want is illegal and low-quality immigrants.
The article was compiled by Global Times reporter Lu Yuanzhi based on an interview with Yuan Zheng, director and senior fellow of Division of American Diplomacy Studies, Institute of American Studies, Chinese Academy of Social Sciences. [email protected]