U.S. President Donald Trump said he would sign an order to temporarily suspend immigration to the United States amid a continuing coronavirus outbreak.
“In light of an attack by an invisible enemy and the need to protect the jobs of our great American citizens, I will sign a temporary suspension of immigration to the United States,” Trump tweeted on Monday.
The Coronavirus has led to a halt in the U.S. economy with more than 22 million people claiming unemployment benefits in the past month.
The suspension of immigration to the U.S. could affect hundreds of thousands of visa holders and potential recipients of residence permits (green cards) who are planning and preparing to come to the United States at any time. Most of them are family members of Americans.
Last year the State Department issued about 460 thousand immigration visas, and the Citizenship and Immigration Service approved about 580 thousand applications from foreigners for residence permits, according to recent statistics.
An expert on immigration policy from the Kato Libertarian Institute Alex Nauraste told the Washington Post that the president probably has the full authority to issue such a decree during the crisis.
According to Nauraste, there are at least two legal grounds for Trump’s decision to close the border for all immigrants: Section 42 of the U.S. Code allows the president to suspend immigration for health reasons, and the 2018 Supreme Court decision, which supported his restrictions on entry, set a legal precedent.
If such a decree was indeed signed, it would be unprecedented in U.S. history, Nauraste believes.
At the peak of the 1918 influenza pandemic, the U.S. let more than 110 thousand immigrants into the country.