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The Trump administration is eyeing “additional steps” to restrict immigration visas within the next month, just days after President Trump signed an executive order limiting immigration into the country.
“This is a first step... I think you’ll see additional steps,” Acting Homeland Security Secretary Chad Wolf said Thursday on "Fox News @ Night."
Trump signed the order Wednesday after promising Monday that he would “temporarily suspend immigration into the United States.”
"In order to protect our great American workers, I’ve just signed an executive order temporarily suspending immigration into the United States,” the president said during the coronavirus task force briefing at the White House. “This will ensure that unemployed Americans of all backgrounds will be first in line for jobs as our economy reopens."
The order cites “the impact of foreign workers on the United States labor market, particularly in an environment of high domestic unemployment and depressed demand for labor” as a reason for the restriction -- as well as pressures on health care and other factors amid the coronavirus crisis.
While the order angered Democrats who called the move cruel and part of an anti-immigrant tone of his administration, immigration hawks were disappointed that it was more limited than the all-out moratorium they wanted, and doesn’t include temporary guest worker programs in industries like tech.
The text of the order, which expires in 60 days, specifically applies to those seeking green cards from outside the U.S. -- including those applying under the diversity lottery, work green cards and chain migration.
It carves out exceptions for those coming in as health care professionals or for other coronavirus-related work, those applying under the EB-5 Immigrant Investor Program, spouses or children of U.S. citizens, members of Armed Forces and any immigrant deemed to be “in the national interest.”
The order is mostly theoretical at the moment, since the State Department suspended all regular visa services because of the coronavirus crisis. But that could end sooner than the order, and restrictionists are calling on Trump to “do better” on what they see as an underwhelming order.
“Not only does your exemption filled Executive Order apply to less than 10 percent of immigrants according to FAIR’s analysis, it completely ignores what is arguably the largest component of foreign-born impact on the welfare of American workers: out of control guestworker programs including H-1B, H-2A, and H-2B,” Federation for American Immigration Reform (FAIR) President Dan Stein said in a letter to President Trump.
Those groups are pointing to a section in the order that says that the secretaries of State, Labor and Homeland Security will in 30 days “review nonimmigrant programs and [recommend to Trump] other measures appropriate to stimulate the United States economy and ensure the prioritization, hiring and employment of United States workers.”
They are hoping that those guest worker programs will be added to the list of restrictions when that is reviewed in 30 days. It’s something that officials are hinting at.
“And in that executive order that the president issued yesterday, it actually directs the Department of Homeland Security, as well as the Department of Labor to look at these non-immigrant or temporary visa programs and come back to him with recommendations,” Wolf said. “And that’s something that the department has been looking at for the past several months."
“So, we’re well underway, and look forward to presenting to the president those recommendations for additional steps,” he said.
On Friday, The Washington Post reported that White House adviser Stephen Miller is also looking at a way to expand the restrictions to include guest worker visas, as well as breaking the chain of so-called “chain migration” or family-based migration
Miller reportedly told Trump surrogates during a call that more measures were under consideration that would restrict guest worker programs, but the “the most important thing is to turn off the faucet of new immigrant labor.”
“As a numerical proposition, when you suspend the entry of a new immigrant from abroad, you’re also reducing immigration further because the chains of follow-on migration that are disrupted,” Miller is reported to have said. “So the benefit to American workers compounds with time.”
Should additional restrictions be put into place, it is likely to be furiously opposed by both business groups, as well as Democrats and immigrant activists. Hakeem Jeffries, chairman of the House Democratic Caucus, this week called Trump “Xenophobe. In. Chief.”
"Make no mistake: this executive order is not about protecting American workers. The only thing it really accomplishes is keeping families apart,” House Judiciary Committee Chairman Jerrold Nadler, D-N.Y., and Immigration and Citizenship Chairwoman Zoe Lofgren, D-Calif., said in a statement. “It is just an excuse to advance President Trump’s and [White House adviser] Stephen Miller’s anti-immigrant agenda.”
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Any further restrictions would be on top of a number of limits on immigration put in place in response to the coronavirus crisis.
Trump has banned foreign nationals from traveling into the U.S. from China, Iran and the European Union and has restricted nonessential travel at the land borders. The administration has postponed immigration services, and is turning back asylum-seekers and illegal immigrants at the border.