US Politics: Trump orders 60-day ban on immigrants seeking US residence

Trump insisted the government must look after US citizens first
Trump has said he wants to protect American jobs

Donald Trump has signed an executive order temporarily banning some immigrants from seeking permanent residence in the US. Tradefair brings you the latest from US politics...

"By pausing immigration we will help put unemployed Americans first in line for jobs as America reopens."

- Donald Trump

Donald Trump has signed an executive order temporarily banning the approval of some green cards - the documents that give immigrants legal permanent residence in the US and the opportunity to apply for American citizenship.

The new measure, which includes a number of exemptions, will run for at least 60 days but could be extended, the president said during yesterday's coronavirus briefing at the White House.

Trump said the order was necessary to protect American workers' jobs as the US economy continues to feel the effects of the Covid-19 pandemic.

'Solemn duty'

The order, which only applies to people seeking permanent residence in the US, will bring about changes including a temporary ban on the practice of current green card holders sponsoring family members to settle in the country. The president has called this process "chain immigration".

It will also suspend the Diversity Visa Lottery, through which approximately 50,000 green cards are issued every year.

Several groups are exempt from the temporary immigration ban, including spouses of American citizens and unmarried children under the age of 21. Those seeking entry to work as doctors, nurses or in other healthcare roles will also be unaffected.

Trump said the "noble fight against the invisible enemy" of coronavirus had inflicted a heavy toll on the American workforce, with millions of people losing their jobs. He added the government has a "solemn duty" to ensure the recently unemployed can regain their jobs and their livelihoods.

"By pausing immigration we will help put unemployed Americans first in line for jobs as America reopens," the president continued.

"It would be wrong and unjust for Americans laid off by the virus to be replaced with new immigrant labour flown in from abroad. We must first take care of the American worker."

How significant is this order?

Trump said the order is "very powerful" and is designed to ensure that American citizens have priority when it comes to accessing jobs and healthcare.

However, there have been questions about the political motivations behind the move, and also how big an impact it's likely to have.

The immediate effect of the order is likely to be lessened by the fact that, with consulates closed, almost all visa processing by the Department of State has been suspended for weeks.

Even so, the temporary suspension is likely to prevent more than 20,000 applicants a month from obtaining green cards, according to the Migration Policy Institute.

Omar Jadwat, director of the Immigrants' Rights Project at the American Civil Liberties Union, said the measure could lead to "real pain for families and employers across the country".

Discussing the wider significance of the order, Mark Krikorian, executive director of the Centre for Immigration Studies, said it may have a "very modest policy effect", but is "actually not even that big a deal".

He added: "The primary function was political, to respond to people's concern that at this point, with maybe 15% of the labour force out of work, they had to do something."

Economic consequences

Trump has repeatedly stressed the importance of mitigating the economic impact of the coronavirus pandemic and allowing businesses and workers across the US to get back to normal life as soon as possible.

He tweeted yesterday that states are now "safely coming back" and the country is "starting to open for business again".

As the president targets re-election in November, his administration will be hoping for a rapid improvement in the employment situation, with more than 20 million Americans having lost their jobs since the start of the coronavirus outbreak.

The pandemic has also had a huge impact on oil markets, with the recent drop-off in demand triggering a sharp decline in US oil prices. For the first time in history, the price of a barrel of West Texas Intermediate - the benchmark for US oil - slipped into negative territory, meaning producers were effectively paying buyers to take the commodity off their hands.

This had a knock-on effect on Wall Street, with stocks falling sharply on Tuesday this week. The Nasdaq Composite was down by 3.5%, while the Dow Jones Industrial Average shed 2.6% and the S&P 500 saw a 2.7% slide.

There were more encouraging trends for investors on Wednesday, however, with a rebound in crude oil prices helping the three major US indexes claw back some of the previous day's losses.

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