As the end of his first term draws near, Trump has kicked his efforts to drive out immigrants and refugees up a notch. Even in the midst of a pandemic that has claimed more than 120,000 American lives, Trump spent time this past week visiting his wasteful and pointless border wall in Arizona instead of addressing the burgeoning coronavirus crisis that is out of control in the state.
In the past week alone, Trump has threatened to end DACA again, sharply curtailed legal immigration through restricting visa applications, and won a Supreme Court decision to speed up deportations of asylum seekers without meaningful due process. Meanwhile, USCIS plans to furlough two-thirds of its workforce.
As Priscilla Alvarez reports for CNN, the Trump administration’s continuous efforts to curtail immigration “put thousands of lives in limbo”:
The Trump administration’s executive order this week dramatically curtailing legal immigration to the US sent hundreds of people and businesses into a scramble to understand whether their future plans are now derailed.
…The Migration Policy Institute, a think tank based in Washington, DC, estimates some 167,000 temporary workers will be kept out of the United States as a result of the new restrictions, which took effect on Wednesday.
…The Trump administration and immigration restrictionists say the idea is to ban foreign workers and instead give American workers the advantage while there’s a high unemployment rate.
…In a call with reporters on Monday, a senior administration official estimated that the restrictions block foreign workers from taking about 525,000 jobs.
But critics argue that misses the point.
“I think this is easily the most severe action the administration has taken so far against legal immigrants,” said Sarah Pierce, a policy analyst at the Migration Policy Institute.
Trump is so committed to doing as much harm to immigrant communities on his way out the door as possible that he is willing to run his own immigration agency into the ground. USCIS is projected to run out of money by the end of the summer and furlough more than two-thirds of its workforce, not because of the pandemic but because of the policies that Trump put in place.
According to Ur Jaddou, Director of DHS Watch and former USCIS Chief Counsel:
The modern U.S. immigration, naturalization, refugee, and asylum systems, built by Congress over more than half a century, are being dismantled by the Trump administration. And now with USCIS — the agency responsible for processing immigration requests — facing realistic threats of furloughs for two-thirds of its staff, the damage being done could become permanent, or at least take years to recover from.
Every part of our immigration system has been touched, and in many cases, almost completely undone. This was already happening before the pandemic, but now the Trump administration is using the pandemic to justify an accelerated destruction of legal immigration, naturalization, refugee, and asylum systems.
Unable to get much of their agenda passed by Congress, even when Republicans controlled both chambers, they are closing the golden door and building a wall around the country, both physical and bureaucratic.
With just a few months left before the end of the Trump administration’s first term, they are burning down the house and gutting the infrastructure and agencies that are needed to process immigration requests when and if our immigration system recovers from four years of Trump administration attacks.