by Anil Kalhan
When faced with criticism for his responses to the coronavirus pandemic, President Trump has reacted almost reflexively by touting his administration’s immigration restrictions as the centerpiece of its efforts. But long before the pandemic, Trump had amassed a considerable record of manufacturing “bogus emergencies” to pursue longer-term immigration policy goals. His latest immigration order might be his most brazenly disingenuous, using a pretextual response to a genuine crisis to hack away at basic features of the immigration system that Congress established decades ago and to impose his own policy preferences in their place by executive decree.
Last week, after officials scrambled to finalize the details, Trump signed a sweeping proclamation making good on his pledge on Twitter two days earlier to “temporarily suspend immigration into the United States” because of the pandemic. The order bans most noncitizens from entering the United States to become permanent residents—initially for sixty days, but potentially for longer.
In its stated rationale, its potential consequences, and its probable longevity, the new directive is different in kind from Trump’s other immigration-related measures during the outbreak. Those differences make it particularly dangerous—but also make it vulnerable to legal challenges.