With a largely symbolic campaign against immigrants, the American president wants to get back to his base with a core topic. The Covid 19 plague is the see-through pretext.

In the end, it wasn’t even a flash in the pan, because the straw turned out to be wet. Things had looked different on Monday evening, namely after fireworks that President Donald Trump wanted to burn for his followers. On Twitter, he announced that immigration to the United States would be temporarily suspended as part of the defensive battle against “the invisible enemy” – the coronavirus is meant – and to protect the “great American citizens”. He was assured of the highest attention, both for advocates and opponents of immigration.

A key issue

Trump was reflecting on a highly controversial core topic of his election campaign in 2016 and on a topic that had helped him again and again during the three years in office to be remembered as a campaigner for an important part of his voters. The movement against an alleged threat of alienation is one of the pillars of his coalition, and its weight is comparable to that of evangelical Christians.

In the United States, this movement, which has flourished over and over again in the history of the United States, is often dismissed as backward nativism designed to protect the pensions and privileges of a formerly dynamic but now ossified native population. It, therefore, collides not only with the “progressive” part of society but also with another, traditional leg of the Republican Party: the business circles.

As is so often the case in industrialized societies with an advanced division of labour, the longing for traditional certainties in some part of the population rubs against the needs of a modern economy that only created considerable prosperity. Specifically, the United States has been on the drip of a constant infusion of IT specialists, especially from Asian countries, for many years, and on the other hand, labour-intensive agriculture relies on poorly educated migrants from the south because Americans do not work hard, relatively poorly paid are to be won – even if they were physically able to do so. Trump is faced with the dilemma that, on the one hand, he wants to be the president who averted the alleged threat of foreign infiltration, but on the other hand he also wants to get the badly hit economy back on track.

Already largely tight

The promised fireworks did not appear because the USA, like many other countries, has already significantly restricted cross-border migration due to the pandemic. Citizens of many parts of the world have been banned from entering the country and the majority of visas have been suspended. To really make an impact, the decree should have targeted precisely those seasonal guest workers in agriculture for whom a temporary work permit is issued. But Trump shrank from that.

When he announced on Wednesday that he would sign the immigration ban on the same day, reports from the White House had long ago made it clear that a paper tiger would remain. The bottom line is that the measure is largely limited to foreigners who want to obtain an unlimited residence permit (green card). These are, for example, people who are already working in the USA with temporary visas or those who want to immigrate as part of family reunification. The measure expressly does not apply to temporary work visas, which are essential for agriculture or the health sector.

Trump signs decision to suspend immigration in the U.S.

US President Donald Trump signed the announced temporary suspension of immigration to the United States on Wednesday evening. He justified the move again by saying that jobs and medical resources must be saved in the face of the Corona crisis for Americans. “We want to take care of our citizens first – we have to.”

According to the ruling published by the White House on Wednesday evening (local time), the suspension came into effect from Thursday to Friday (local time) during the night. The restriction applies only to foreigners who are outside of the United States and who do not yet have an entry permit. It does not apply to those who already have a permanent residence permit in the United States. Exceptions are envisaged, among other things, for healthcare workers and other key areas to combat the current epidemic. Spouses and children of American citizens are also excluded.

The Ministry of Labor, the Department of Homeland Security and the Ministry of Foreign Affairs should also recommend possible further steps in migration policy that are appropriate to support the economy and the domestic labour market.

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Synthia Rozario
An editorial staff member at The Eastern Herald. Formerly, correspondent of The Eastern Express, Hong Kong.