How Trump is using the pandemic to crack down on immigration

The Trump administration’s changes to the US immigration system during the pandemic have been swift and sweeping.

Many measures were initially billed as temporary but have been extended repeatedly as coronavirus continues to spread. And it’s likely there’s more to come as the 2020 election looms.

The latest change came on Monday, when Immigration and Customs Enforcement announced new rules for international students.

Critics accuse the administration of using the pandemic as a pretext to enact unnecessary immigration restrictions and advance particularly harsh policies that had struggled to gain momentum prior to the public health crisis. Trump maintains he’s making good on his core campaign promise to put America first.

Citing the pandemic, the Trump administration has…

Banned travel from China (January 31), Iran (February 29), some European countries (March 12) and Brazil (May 24)

Suspended routine visa services at US consulates (March 13)

Closed many immigration courts and postponed hearings (March 17)

Closed USCIS offices and cancelled citizenship ceremonies(March 17)

Paused all refugee resettlement in the US (March 18)

Used a public health law to turn back thousands of migrants seeking asylum at the US-Mexico border, including families and children (March 20)

Closed the borders to non-essential travel (March 21)

Postponed hearings for thousands of migrants waiting in Mexico to seek asylum (March 23)

Threatened to impose visa sanctions on countries that don’t accept US deportations (April 10)

Suspended new green card applications from abroad (April 22)

Blocked thousands of guest worker visas until at least the end of the year (June 22)

Warned that due to budget shortfalls it will have to furlough thousands of employees at the agency tasked with handling most legal immigration to the US (June 25)

Told foreign students they could face deportation if they’re attending universities offering only online courses due to Covid (July 6)

Note: Travel bans included exceptions for US citizens and permanent residents. Some immigration courts have now reopened. Some USCIS offices have also reopened and officials have resumed conducting citizenship ceremonies.