President Donald Trump suspends green cards to 'protect American workers' amid coronavirus pandemic

22 April 2020, 10:38

United States President Donald J. Trump speaks at the Coronavirus Task Force press briefing at the White House in Washington on April 21
United States President Donald J. Trump speaks at the Coronavirus Task Force press briefing at the White House in Washington on April 21. Picture: PA

By Megan White

President Donald Trump said the US will suspend certain immigration green cards for 60 days amid the coronavirus pandemic.

The President said the measure will be implemented to “protect American workers” and limit competition for jobs in a US economy wrecked by Covid-19.

Mr Trump said that the move would not impact on those in the country on a temporary basis and would apply only to those looking for green cards in the hope of staying.

"To protect American workers I will be issuing a temporary suspension of immigrating into the United States," Mr Trump said at a White House briefing after tweeting about the order late on Monday night.

An administration official familiar with the plans had said earlier the order would be focused on preventing people from winning permission to live and work in the US.

That would include those seeking employment-based green cards and relatives of green card holders who are not citizens.

Americans who wish to bring immediate family to the country would still be able to do so, according to the official, who spoke on condition of anonymity.

About one million people were granted green cards last year.

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.

Mr Trump has used the virus to effectively end asylum at US borders, including turning away children who arrive by themselves and putting a hold on refugee resettlement - something Congress, the courts and international law had not previously allowed.

Criticism of the President’s new announcement was swift, especially his timing during the pandemic.

Ali Noorani, president of the National Immigration Forum, noted that thousands of foreign-born healthcare workers are currently treating people with Covid-19 and working in critical sectors of the economy.

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Andrea Flores of the American Civil Liberties Union said Mr Trump seemed "more interested in fanning anti-immigrant flames than in saving lives".

In a statement, White House press secretary Kayleigh McEnany described the order as aimed at protecting both the "health and economic well-being of American citizens as we face unprecedented times".

She said: "At a time when Americans are looking to get back to work, action is necessary."