Trump Tweet: Will Issue Executive Order Temporarily Suspending All Immigration into the United States

By Jerri-Lynn Scofield, who has worked as a securities lawyer and a derivatives trader. She is currently writing a book about textile artisans.

Late Monday night, Trump tweeted he will soon issue an executive order temporarily suspending all immigration into the Unites States:

As of the time of publication, we have no further details, other than this naked promise, .

Say what you like about our batshit crazy, logorrheic commander-in-chief: He may lack any semblance of impulse control, but he sure as hell understands politics.

Yves has consistently emphasised that Trump’s executive orders have little legal effect – although by design they have tremendous symbolic value.

So for the latest move. A couple of points. First, all new immigration into the US is de facto suspended already, as the State Department ceased visa processing in the middle of March for immigrants and non-immigrants, due to COVID-19 logistical issues. And second, with the de facto lockdown of the US – including explicit bans on incoming flights from Europe to the United States, and the the ongoing shutdown of most international commercial flight services: how many people, immigrant or not, do you think are entering the US at this time?

Trump Social Media Playbook

Other seasoned observers have caught on to what are by now  standard moves in Trump’s social media playbook. Consider, for example, this take from Anthony  Zurcher, North America  reporter for the BBC:

Donald Trump’s efforts at governing by social media should always be taken with a sizable grain of salt. His track record on following through on Twitter directives is decidedly mixed. The details of his temporary ban on all immigration, announced a few hours before midnight on Monday, will shed considerable light on the breadth – and legality – of his actions.

Still, it is no secret that the president, and several key advisers, have long viewed immigration not as a benefit to the nation, but as a drain. And the text of his tweet, that the move is necessary not only to protect the nation’s health but also “the jobs of its great American citizens”, only emphasises this.

There is little doubt the proposal, in whatever form it takes, will be vigorously opposed by pro-immigration groups, some business interests and the president’s ideological adversaries. That is probably just fine with a man who loves drawing political battle lines and goading his opponents whenever possible.

Four years ago, the president campaigned on an aggressive anti-immigration platform, including a total, if temporary, ban on all Muslims entering the country. Now, with an uphill re-election fight looming, he has found a similarly combative measure to champion.

What Might Trump Do? 

In the absence of any clear details, the New York Times nonetheless took a stab at what the forthcoming Trump policy might look like – and emphasised the appeal of tighter immigration controls politically for some of Trump’s base, Trump Plans to Suspend Immigration to U.S.:

But the president’s late-night announcement on Monday signals his most wide-ranging attempt yet to seal off the country from the rest of the world. A formal order temporarily barring the provision of new green cards and work visas could come as early as the next few days, according to several people familiar with the plan.

Under such an executive order, the Trump administration would no longer approve any applications from foreigners to live and work in the United States for an undetermined period of time, effectively shutting down the legal immigration system in the same way the president has long advocated closing the borders to illegal immigration. It was not immediately clear what legal basis Mr. Trump would claim to justify shutting down most immigration.

Workers who have for years received visas to perform specialized jobs in the United States would also be denied permission to arrive, though some workers in some industries deemed critical could be exempted from the ban, the people familiar with the president’s discussion said.

The number of visas issued to foreigners abroad looking to immigrate to the United States has declined by about 25 percent, to 462,422 in the 2019 fiscal year from 617,752 in 2016.

But Mr. Trump’s primary focus appears to be on protecting American workers as the virus ravages what had been a rapidly growing job market.

Even before the pandemic, the president and some of his most hard-line advisers had been eager to reduce legal immigration, arguing that Mr. Trump’s “America First” campaign pledge should be seen as protecting native-born Americans from having to compete with foreign workers.

Stephen Miller, the architect of the president’s immigration agenda, has pushed repeatedly for regulations and executive actions that would limit the immigration allowed each year, arguing that immigrants are a drain on American society, drive down wages and take jobs from native-born Americans.

(I will not here address the embedded  assumption in the NYT account that immigration disguises racism, without acknowledging its effect on labour costs. See this 2016 post Questioning Immigration is Not Racism for more on this issue. I include this aside so that astute members of the NC commentariat – which is the best commentariat – don’t charge me with being unaware of this point).

But despite the pearl clutching, the Grey Lady wound up by quoting an expert who suggested that Trump’s final policy, once subject to judicial review, might be much less severe than the tweeted rhetoric. Of course, by the point all is said and done, Trump would have reaped political benefits among supporters for his stance – regardless of the implemented policy consequences:

Franita Tolson, who studies constitutional and election law at the University of Southern California, said in an interview that Mr. Trump’s latest tweet continues a well-worn pattern of issuing broad mandates against immigrants, often as a base-pleasing political cudgel, only to later rework the orders under mounting legal pressure.

Legally, she said, the administration has a habit of working in reverse: issuing sweeping initiatives, and vetting them afterward.

“He tweets out a broad tweet without details, and the administration tailors it to figure out what might pass judicial review,” Ms. Tolson said. She added that Mr. Trump’s latest attempt to issue a restrictive order was sure to meet legal challenges. “Given our infection rate and the lack of testing, he’s taking advantage of a national crisis.”

The WSJ featured a more measured analysis – which concurs with my view that the Trump policy won’t immediately change all that much, Trump to Temporarily Halt Immigration Into the U.S. Amid Coronavirus Crisis:

Administration officials said the order wouldn’t make substantial changes to current U.S. policy. Even without an executive order, the administration has already all but ceased nearly every form of immigration. Most visa processing has been halted, meaning almost no one can apply for a visa to visit or move to the U.S. Visa interviews and citizenship ceremonies have been postponed and the refugee program paused, The Wall Street Journal has previously reported. Migrants caught crossing the border are now immediately expelled once they are found.

The Journal also highlighted expected exemptions the administration will allow  – including farmworkers necessary to sow and reap harvests, and health worker needed to treat victims of  the pandemic:

The executive order is expected to include exceptions for migrant farmworkers, who make up about a 10th of the workforce on U.S. farms, and health-care workers, particularly those helping treat coronavirus patients, an administration official said. It is not expected to address the removal of immigrants already in the U.S. or the visa renewal process, the official said.

Allowing in farm workers is necessary to alleviate Given the slowly worsening food security situation.

Government By Executive Order

I would be remiss if I confined myself here merely to bashing Trump’s immigration-policy-by executive-order tactic.

For lest we forget, Trump’s sainted predecessor, initiated the immigration-policy-by-executive-order fandango, by a constellation of actions such as attempting to reform legal immigration, enhancing enforcement, and addressing illegal immigration (see this Bipartisan Policy Center summary for further details, Obama’s Immigration Executive Actions: Two Years Later – although I am always inherently suspicious of any organization that calls itself ‘bipartisan)’.

The purpose of this post is not to parse those earlier efforts, some of which were suspended or overturned by courts and most of which Trump promised to undo. They are yesterday’s Macarena.

Now, mind you, that’s not to say that Republicans wouldn’t have worked out the steps to this dance themselves if someone hadn’t first demonstrated them. But following in someone’s footsteps sure made things easier, compared to working out the choreography oneself.

Would only that the last Democratic administration expended more effort on legislation, nominating and confirming judges, or rule-making, for that matter, that could not be easily rolled back under the Congressional Review Act –than on focusing on more ephemeral executive orders.

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  1. Generalfeldmarschall von Hindenburg

    Does this not feel like a piece of theatre? Likely to be rescinded in short order.

    1. L

      Yes and no. This feels like a piece of theater that will last as long as they want it to. Like the Muslim Ban it will be a temporary emergency measure that becomes a de-facto law because the Emergency is never allowed to end.

      Even the most optimistic experts assume that COVID will be a problem for the next year or more meaning that this temporary emergency will carry him through at least the election. When they either extend it in victory or freak out as the Dems scale it back. In effect he is setting up the open borders argument for the eventual debate.

      Now it is also, typical of him, virtue signaling that is ultimately ineffective in its goals. If he really wanted to protect jobs he would be negotiating emergency bailout packages that do that and he would be investing more in the US rather than, as he has, floundering around then cutting taxes for Wall St. He is not meaning that he needs to do something to claim he still cares about the very people he spoke to when running for office. This, sadly, is what he comes to.

      Ultimately of course it will be effective at Steven Miller’s true goal which is cutting us off from the world. The message sent by this kind of crap is unmistakable and it will drive away people just by being offensive. That in the end will make Miller and his gang happy.

    2. False Solace

      Another empty political gesture from Trump, as we are used to by now. Get everybody cheering or jeering about immigration instead of collapsing small businesses and the army of hopeless, jobless, soon to be homeless, workers.

      Our fat and stupid Congress dithers over additional aid while states languish with piecemeal testing and supplies and an almost total absence of federal leadership to resolve anything. I can’t say I’m surprised by this move, only that Trump has failed so clearly and dramatically to engage with a national crisis on anything but the most superficial level. As an American who has to live here I obviously hoped for better.

      1. TimH

        I disagree with “empty political gesture”. It won’t happen, for sure, but he is reminding the disaffected white voter that he’s their guy.

        Everything he does now is with an eye to getting second term. His actions show that he doesn’t care about anything else. Remember, his hotel/resort businesses are suffering too. He *needs* the few years after CV19 to use his position as El Pres to prop those up.

    3. TheMog

      It may well be the usual theatre, but part of the problem is that this kind of theatre will likely result in at least some of us who are in the US as legal immigrants (like yours truly) having to take a closer look at where this is likely to head.

      Yves keeps mentioning that the US and especially the current administration shows that it is not “agreement capable” (if I remember the phrase correctly) and this random politics-by-tweet don’t do much to dispell that myth.

  2. voislav

    This is a good example why Trump is such a dangerous opponent. He takes a policy position that will be extremely popular with the working class in a time of crisis and does a very public and illegal implementation of it. When it gets rolled back with much less publicity, he can blame the establishment, democrats and the activist judges, for opposing him and maintain his outsider status, even though he’s been the president for 4 years.

    If the Democratic party and Biden are dumb enough to wade into this and come out in opposition to this policy, they’ll take a big hit in the Midwest in all those swing states. Someone needs to show the Admiral Ackbar yelling: It’s a trap!

      1. Carolinian

        Yes. Trump’s mantra is “made you look.” Or there’s the H’wood/marketing version: no such thing as bad publicity. When we obsess over him he wins.

    1. Wukchumni

      It’s a variant of him or one of his minions (Hello Devin Nunes!) suing somebody for an extravagant amount of money. All his followers see is the first salvo of claiming $250 million for harm caused, and it’s such a big number that the proles on the right think it must have merit.

      Eventually the lawsuits are dropped with no fanfare whatsoever, poof it’s gone.

    2. L

      I’m not sure how popular this will be with the working classes versus his continued failures on testing. That said you are right it shows why he is dangerous. He is very effective at giving people potemkin enemies to rail against when his own failures arise. The question is, how long will people buy it?

      1. Wukchumni

        “He is very effective at giving people potemkin enemies to rail against when his own failures arise. The question is, how long will people buy it?”

        It’s a good question, and my 2 brother-in-laws who aren’t dummies are still enthralled with him according to my sisters, and you wonder just what would it take for them to change their minds?

        Both of them have gotten creamed financially (turd REIC’s & 3-letter-montes) as of late, but not enough to sway them.

  3. Susan the other

    I’m not praising Obama, but he was faced with a completely dysfunctional Congress. And so is Trump. It’s only fitting that today’s “Macarena” is executive order by tweet. The glaring reality is that we might well need to close our borders and rescind green cards until Corona is contained. It looks less and less likely that a vaccine is even possible (this morning in – first link from the scmp on mutations). The other glaring reality is that we obviously need to pay citizens a living wage for farm work and care work – and everything else. But the tragedy is, as usual, that we have a corrupted, irrational, incompetent legislature. We’d be better off being governed by tweet.

    1. JTMcPhee

      Maybe I missed something but didn’t Obama have Dem majorities in both houses for two years, and only worked with them to further erect parapets on the edifice of wealthy privilege? While convening the Catfood Commission and trying, against Rep resistance, to force through the Grand Bargain?

      That pitchfork protector and Hellfire looser gets nothing but disrespect from me, him and his $14 million mansion. He and Michelle are just another family of grifters.

    2. ForFawkesSakes

      Susan, the Democratic party had majorities in Congress upon O’s election. The ‘dysfunctional’ Congress came in the first midterm election.

      1. mpalomar

        not to defend the weather vane in chief who led in the favored direction of ‘wind at the back’ and who let Bush war crimes and constitutional transgressions stand but just because it was a Democratic majority congress doesn’t mean it wasn’t dysfunctional. All the well justified Democrat bashing that goes on here is evidence of party fail on a broad front.

    3. Dwight

      Susan, I hope you mean “stop issuing” not “rescind” green cards. Not that I see any real benefit to that in addressing the pandemic, since testing and/or quarantine are an easy option. Delays of course are inevitable.

      1. Susan the other

        because, if true that there is a deadlier mutation in the second wave, either is a good choice – rescind might cause chaos; end temporarily would be better.

        1. ChrisPacific

          Rescinding existing ones would be a terrible choice – leaving aside the issues associated with things like forcibly separating families, it would cause mass population movement, which is the last thing we need right now. Even the ‘stop issuing new ones’ option would have the potential to do that, since a lot of green card applicants are in the US already and applying to convert a temporary visa into a permanent one (usually due to family or employment connections). Whatever results in the least travel will be the best option from a virus control perspective.

  4. skk

    Very nice writing. Reminds me of Marina Hyde’s ( Sport Journalist and Sports Columnist of the Year ) commentary in the Grauniad.

  5. Oso

    thank you Jerri-Lynn, and thank you for link to Yves Smith’s 2016 article. for those not directly affected this is not an issue but a reality and endangers personal well being. indigenous people are not immigrants, certainly not illegal in any way, yet along with muslims we are the people most affected by the type of hysteria trump’s tweet engenders. i appreciate NC addressing this issue in such detail and so fairly. thank you.

  6. Wukchumni

    Give me your tired, your poor,
    Your huddled masses yearning to breathe free,
    The wretched refuse of your teeming shore
    And we’ll have ICE deal with getting rid of them.

    1. Eclair

      Well, except if the ‘wretched refuse’ are tech workers on H-1B visas, hired in increasing numbers by Amazon, Google, Microsoft, Facebook and Apple. Go downtown at lunch time (pre-CoVid), to Seattle’s South Lake Union area, where Amazon had the city build them them own power station, and wander among the food trucks parked and selling Indian, Pakistani, Chinese, Thai, Vietnamese, Indonesian, fast foods to hundreds of homesick guys. Best lunch values in town!

      Or the Southern Hemisphere college students spending their summer breaks working at ski resorts all over the mountain west. I spent 24 hours on an Amtrak train heading west from NYC, with a totally clueless Brazilian student who was heading to an ice fishing resort in Minot, North Dakota. In Chicago, I took her shopping to replace her elegant, but totally useless in Minot, camel hair wrap-around coat, with down jacket, woolly hat and boots.

      And, back to the tech sector, according to a Geek Wire, April 2018 report, 81% of electrical engineering, and 79% of computer science, full time graduate students studying at US universities, are international.

      But those workers and students on visas have some protection. As usual, it’s the poorest workers, in the fields, in the meat processing plants, at the janitorial service, yard maintenance, and construction companies, that live with a background of fear; keep your head down, don’t make waves, don’t even think about a union, don’t complain when the bosses short your pay check or feel you up in the supply closet.

  7. K teh

    The actuarial carry trade is done.

    Fintech has nothing to copy, paste and scale.

    Return on the S&P relative to labor is maxed out.

    At S&P 1250, the kids could buy a home and raise their own children.

    Globalization is at peak everything – cheap labor, efficient technology, oil – all the inputs.

    The Great Depression was not what we were taught in school.

  8. coboarts

    “Workers who have for years received visas to perform specialized jobs in the United States would also be denied permission to arrive” …and hopefully this goes beyond the lower tier of labor. Perhaps all those students we’re training for IT and those old tech workers who trained their replacements will get back to work in their chosen fields, too.

    1. TheMog

      Don’t forget that a fair number of those students you mentioned – especially at the more prestigious universities – are foreign citizens.

      I’m somewhat doubtful that even a full IT immigration stop would lead to a noticeable uptick in re-hiring of those workers are that ended up having to train their replacements. My suspicion is that the current crisis demonstrated only too well that it is possible to do most, if not all of the IT job functions remotely, so why not merrily outsource those to the cheapest bidder on another continent?

      1. sj

        My suspicion is that the current crisis demonstrated only too well that it is possible to do most, if not all of the IT job functions remotely, so why not merrily outsource those to the cheapest bidder on another continent?

        As if that hasn’t been happening for years. I’ve yet to see a successful implementation, however. Not that the pitiful results have stopped corporations from trying. It’s all about the short term benefit to the bottom line.

    2. Robert Hahl

      The luckiest professional break I ever had was getting my first job out of college during the recession of 1980. The job was vacant because a chemist went back to Taiwan for cheap dental work, and then couldn’t get back into the U.S.

  9. Huey Long


    The guys and gals at the top will have to do without pliant cheap imported labor for awhile until one of the judges they’ve bought slaps an injunction on this order.

  10. Painted Shut

    My question is, why wasn’t this done to begin with? Immigration is the opposite of “stay at home”.

    And really, when all is said and done, the biggest failure will likely have been the fact that we didn’t lock down domestic travel soon enough (IOW failed to properly lock down hotspots). This will also prove difficult in reopening state by state or county by county. If you don’t enforce borders, you can’t effectively prevent spread from hotspots.

  11. K teh

    Everything affects everything, not what you were taught.

    The trick in that Gantt Chart and/or your code recursion is to inject the outliers and swap the dependent and independent variables, giving you an ac driver.

    Right now, they are waiting to see if they are going to have to pay you or if they are going to get another “payday” to avoid doing so another day. But they have moved off a V and gone to a U. Watch the oil contracts.

    In any case, start with a misc consultant retainer invoice. Payment is the consideration. No terms and conditions. There will be 3 parts – straight conversion, cleaning up the latest inputs, and correcting structural errors. Your retainer is 50% of part 1.

    Use a common for the conversion, not a tool from a middleman.

    If you are going to work on a physical and don’t have a pull sheet, a ladder and wiring diagrams, you may as well start by tearing out the controller, but leave a light on. If it’s Japanese, you might consider keeping it and making a pull sheet for added wire numbers. Take the operating system off the front end and put it on the back end.

    The newest systems have a gravity sink problem.

    1. K teh

      Get your money, turn into cash, and put it into local general circulation.

      They drove velocity to zero.

      When the local proprietor with the greatest cash turnover was forced into electronic money by the YELPs of the world, I knew it was all over.

      Whether the virus was convenient is irrelevant.

  12. marym

    Trump/Miller immigration policy, when or whether a particular piece of it is implemented, has nothing to do with taking care of US workers, or dealing with the pandemic. A hint as to why this is true can be found in their having done little to nothing else, or been counterproductive, to any such goals.

    We seem to be coming up on the 4th bailout bill, for instance, and, as much as they deserve every word of criticism against them, it’s not only the Democrats who aren’t providing anything for the workers.

    1. marym

      Adding: another hint:
      Katie Simpson @CBCKatie
      Trump says the pause is for 60 days and will be re-evaluated “based on economic conditions,” at the time. Trump says this only applies to individuals seeking a permanent residency, in other words, those seeking a green card. Not those seeking to enter temporarily.
      5:07 PM · Apr 21, 2020

  13. Keith

    I wonder is this a trial balloon for when he wants to open the country/economy back up. 60 days is towards the end of June, which might be a practical starting point.

  14. Edward

    Donald Trump is putting America under sanctions. Between Covid-19 and the economy he may not have to work that hard to exclude foreigners.

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