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Trump signs immigration order sharply different from what he said he planned

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WASHINGTON (Los Angeles Times) — President Trump on Wednesday signed a proclamation on immigration that will restrict some people from entering the country over the next 60 days, but does not shut off applications for permanent residence as he had publicly declared just one day earlier.

The order, which Trump signed Wednesday afternoon, will block some new entrants who do not already have visas or other travel documents. But it includes broad exemptions for several categories of foreign workers and employers, from investors to healthcare professionals, as well as their spouses and children.

Also exempt are any parents, children or spouses of U.S. citizens; any children or spouses of U.S. military, and potential refugees and asylum seekers.

The order does not change the status of immigrants already in the U.S.

The proclamation caps two days of confusion over immigration policy that began with a tweet from Trump on Monday night saying that he planned to sign an order to “temporarily suspend immigration into the United States!”

That blindsided officials at the Department of Homeland Security, which oversees immigration, as well as others in the administration. On Monday, at his daily White House briefing, Trump offered a different version, saying that his proposed action, which he inaccurately described as an executive order, would “apply to individuals seeking a permanent residency. In other words, those receiving green cards.”

On Wednesday, Trump announced that the new order had been signed, but did not detail its contents.

“I just signed an order temporarily suspending immigration into the United States,” Trump said. “Americans of all backgrounds will be first in line for jobs as our economy reopens, and crucially it also preserves healthcare resources for our patients.”

The order takes effect at midnight Thursday April 23, and will be reviewed after 30 days, according to the text of the proclamation.

“Amending it or extending it, that we can do at the appropriate time,” he added, “but it’s now signed.”

The proclamation justifies the new restrictions by saying that immigrant workers can’t be limited to only particular economic sectors with labor needs. Thus, “there is no way to protect already disadvantaged and unemployed Americans from the threat of competition for scarce jobs,” it declares.

“Existing immigrant visa processing protections,” the proclamation said, “are inadequate for recovery from the Covid-19 outbreak.”

It’s unclear how much Trump’s new order will change, at least in the short term. With the virus seeping across the world, immigration to the United States, the epicenter of the pandemic, has ground to a near halt. The State Department, which processes applications outside of the country, as well as U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services, which processes applications inside the country, have both largely suspended their services.

And as Trump pointed out in a tweet on Wednesday morning, “even without this order,” administration officials have already closed U.S. borders to most entries.

Just Monday, the administration extended the closure of U.S. borders with Canada and Mexico to “nonessential travel,” as well as a controversial order from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention that immigration officials are citing to rapidly expel thousands of migrants at the U.S. southern border, including asylum seekers and unaccompanied children specially protected under U.S. law.

Beyond the border, U.S. officials have also closed visa offices abroad, frozen applications for other travel to the U.S., suspended interviews for citizenship, rescheduled immigration hearings, and paused refugee placements.

Democratic lawmakers have accused Trump of using the pandemic as a front for a “power grab” to achieve his long-stated aim of dramatically reducing even legal immigration to the United States.

As late as Wednesday afternoon, officials at USCIS still did not know what the president intended for the order or how the agency would apply it.

The lack of clarity, inter-agency coordination, and prior legal review is symptomatic of how Trump’s White House has rolled out a number of policies.

November 2020 pssnewsletter

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