Trump looks to temporary immigration suspension to halt spread of Covid-19

The latest in a string of moves cracking down on immigration, the president announced on Twitter that the move was necessary due to “the attack from the invisible enemy” Covid-19, which has so far resulted in more than 42,000 deaths in the US.

“It is disappointing but not surprising”

The Trump administration has gradually expanded travel restrictions and slowed visa processing in an attempt to stem the spread of the virus.

Since March 20, the Department of State has temporarily suspended routine visa services at all US embassies and consulates, cancelling all routine immigrant and nonimmigrant visa appointments.

However, it remains unclear as to what policy would be included in the latest announcement, as the president and the White House did not elaborate.

“Given that this was announced in a tweet as political posturing and provides no details, it is hard to know what exactly is being proposed,” said Fanta Aw, vice president of Campus Life & Inclusive Excellence at American University in Washington.

“As of now, US consulates and embassies are not operating in most parts of the world, travel bans have been instituted for certain countries, issues related to immigration and the current administration abound with zero comprehensive approach or understanding of the role of immigration in the US economy,” she told The PIE News.

“It is disappointing but not surprising. Over the next days and months we should expect to learn more about the intentions and actions of the Trump administration.”

Higher education organisations in the US previously warned that overall enrolment for the next academic year will drop by 15%, while a projected decline of 25% of international students is expected.

The 25% decline in international student enrolment would lead to a loss of approximately $10 billion and 114,000 jobs to the US economy, NAFSA has said.

Speaking with The PIE, assistant dean, International Strategy and Programs at San Diego State University World Campus, Eddie West, said the message the president gave will likely be more impactful than the policy.

“Students around the world who have been looking to come to the US to start their studies this summer or fall are to varying extents looking for signs of the likelihood of that being possible, like the rest of us in the field, and that tweet isn’t the most encouraging sign,” he suggested.

West added that visiting students are on F1 non-immigrant visas meaning the “suspension of immigration shouldn’t itself have any material impact on student mobility because students aren’t considered immigrants”.

“But there’s likely to be an adverse impact in this being another indirect signal that the US isn’t close to throwing open its borders to any type of international mobility as yet.”

“That tweet isn’t the most encouraging sign”

West said that the universities and other organisations that will best weather this unprecedented situation are those “able, financially and strategically, to take the long view in terms of planning.”

US exchange organisations are also helping exchange visitors remaining in the US who have been left in limbo due to the swift escalation of the crisis.

On April 20, the US, Mexico, and Canada agreed to extend restrictions on non-essential travel across their shared borders for 30 additional days.

“As president Trump stated last week, border control, travel restrictions and other limitations remain critical to slowing the spread and allowing the phased opening of the country,” explained acting secretary of Department of Homeland Security, Chad Wolf.

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