Asian American groups condemn the new immigration restrictions
SOME 48 hours after tweeting that he would temporarily curb United States immigration during the coronavirus pandemic, President Donald Trump on Wednesday, April 22 signed an executive order suspending the issuance of green cards, the diversity visa lottery and certain family reunification programs.
The executive order was borne from a confusing message the president sent via his active Twitter account in which he said he would sign “an executive order to temporarily suspend immigration into the United States!” This was met with confusion from administration officials who then scrambled to organize and draft the order.
After two days of uncertainty regarding what the order will actually pertain, it was made clear from various White House officials and eventually Trump himself that the order is focused on family-based immigration or, which he and his administration have disparagingly called it, “chain-based migration.”
It will take place for at least 60 days, and it does not apply to immigrants who are already in the U.S. or people seeking temporary working and student visas. Those who work in pandemic industries like health care, agriculture and food processing are also exempt from this order.
The order also does not apply to spouses and minor children of U.S. citizens, members of the U.S. Armed Forces (and their spouses and children), those with special immigrant visas for Iraqi and Afghan nationals who’ve worked for the U.S. government, or anyone entering the country for reasons related to law enforcement.
Those who are affected include foreign nationals who are seeking to legally migrate to the U.S. However, as previously mentioned in the Asian Journal, the order does little to change current laws established during the earlier days of the pandemic.
In March, the State Department and immigration officials already temporarily suspended visa services, refugee admissions and imposed strict border restrictions following the COVID-19 outbreak.
The executive order — which the administration claims was designed to protect American workers — comes at a time when 26 million Americans have filed for unemployment.
“This order will ensure that unemployed Americans of all backgrounds will be first in line for jobs as our economy reopens,” the president said on Wednesday during one of the White House’s daily briefings. “Crucially, we’ll also preserve our health care resources for American patients.”
But as the pandemic rages on and continues to impact nearly every key industry and aspect of daily life, this order halts the plans of tens of thousands of families seeking to reunite. The Migration Policy Institutes estimates that the temporary order would prevent some 52,000 people from getting green cards during the 60-day period.
Notably, family reunification programs and petitioning are cornerstones for mixed-status families, especially within the Asian and Pacific Islander (API) community. Though the Trump administration has framed the executive order as a safeguard for the American workforce, many saw the move as an extension of Trump’s anti-immigrant policies.
“It really seems like an attempt for Trump to move ahead an agenda where he’s trying to create immigrants as a reason for any kind of economic problem that we have here in the United States,” Aquilina Soriano-Versoza, executive director of the Pilipino Workers Center, told the LAist.
In regards to the exemption of health care workers — who have been on the front lines of this pandemic — Soriano-Versoza said that the executive order largely lacked humanity, saying, “Unfortunately, it’s looking at immigrants as just, ‘How can they serve a very specific need?’ instead of as whole people.”
After the reports of increased hate and violence against the API community following the COVID-19 outbreak, API legal and civil rights organization Asian Americans Advancing Justice – LA believes this executive order furthers the “acts of hate” against Asians and Asian Americans.
Calling out senior White House advisor Steven Miller, who has orchestrated much of the president’s stringent immigration platform, Advancing Justice – LA wrote in a statement, “Trump’s new immigration ban is an attempt to distract from his failed response to COVID-19 and manipulates the pandemic to justify his and Steven Miller’s white nationalist agenda.”
“Congress designed our immigration system around the value that families deserve to be together, and family-based immigration is responsible for many of the strong, vibrant, and diverse Asian American communities today,” the organization wrote. “As 92% of Asian Americans are immigrants or children of immigrants, Asian American communities will be greatly impacted by this ban.”