Several Massachusetts lawmakers say President Donald Trump’s plan to halt immigration amid the COVID-19 pandemic smacks of racism and scapegoating designed to divide the nation at a time when tens of thousands of Americans have died in less than two months.
The lawmakers, all Democrats, pledged Tuesday to fight an upcoming executive order announced in Trump’s tweet after 10 p.m. on Monday night.
“In light of the attack from the Invisible Enemy, as well as the need to protect the jobs of our GREAT American Citizens, I will be signing an Executive Order to temporarily suspend immigration into the United States!” Trump wrote.
Rep. Richard Neal said that other than a late-night tweet, the president had “shared no information with the American public about how this hasty change in immigration policy would work.”
“His announcement has even caught members of his administration by surprise," Neal added. "The reality is that while we respond to the global pandemic, few people are traveling in or out of the United States. During these uncertain times, I would urge the President to stay focused on COVID relief and not recommend a policy change that would be unprecedented in the history of the United States.”
The “invisible enemy” — a novel coronavirus that Trump said was “totally under control” in January — has infected more than 800,000 Americans and killed 44,000.
Public health experts in the Trump administration say millions more would have been infected without stay-at-home orders and social distancing guidelines in place across the country for several weeks. The economy has nosedived in the meantime, prompting more than 20 million Americans to file for unemployment.
While the Trump administration argues the order is focused on protecting American workers, many lawmakers say it’s the most extreme of several measures already taken by the administration to block entry from immigrants and asylum seekers.
“Our immigrant neighbors are essential to our nation’s wellbeing — protecting and supporting our communities,” Rep. Ayanna Pressley said on Twitter. “The occupant’s shameful attempt to use this public health emergency to advance his xenophobic agenda is disturbing, but not surprising. The cruelty is the point.”
Trump’s executive order would force the country to deny entry for immigrants seeking most work visas for at least 90 days, Bloomberg reported. The ban does not include health care or medical research professionals, or workers in food production and others “directly helping to protect the supply chain,” including farm workers, according to a draft of the order. Immigrants working in the U.S. technology industry on H-1B visas will need to provide updated certifications showing they aren’t displacing American workers.
“I have determined that we cannot jump start the domestic economy if Americans are forced to compete against an artificially enlarged labor pool caused by the introduction of foreign workers,” Trump said in the draft order. “I have determined that the entry of most aliens as permanent or temporary workers in the immediate term would have adverse impacts on the national interest.”
“We’re not falling for it,” Rep. Katherine Clark tweeted. “More than 40,000 Americans have lost their lives to #Covid_19. Trump is once again relying on division to distract us from his failure to provide the testing, PPE and tracing that is necessary to save lives and reopen our economy.”
In a Facebook post, Sen. Ed Markey called the proposed immigration ban “the latest piece of the same racist and xenophobic agenda he and his administration have been driving for years. It’s despicable and unacceptable. We will fight back.”
In a video, Rep. Joe Kennedy III, who’s running against Markey in a Democratic primary, said, “Think of how small our current president seems at that podium. ‘Everyone else’s fault but mine. I bear no responsibility for this. In fact, it is the cause of the immigrant that we are where we are today.’ We’ve got a tough task in front of us, but this country is capable of so much better, and so much more.”
Sen. Elizabeth Warren argued the president had “nobody to blame” but himself for a “completely bungled response to a deadly crisis.”
“Not immigrants. Not governors or mayors. Just you,” she said in a Facebook post. “Stop scapegoating immigrants with more racism and xenophobia and do your job.”
Original story here.