It seems that President Trump isn’t happy unless he has some dragon to fight. With his perception that the coronavirus threat, which he never seemed to take that seriously in the first place, is waning, the president has turned his attention back to his favorite nemesis: foreigners.
Trump last week announced that enough progress had been made against the coronavirus that states could start reopening their economies. Just a couple of days later, however, he sent out a tweet stating that because of the “attack from the Invisible Enemy, as well as to protect the jobs of our GREAT American Citizens,” he was stopping all immigration.
As is their frequent burden, administration officials later issued a clarification, saying that the order he signed last Wednesday doesn’t go as far as he tweeted; it cancels green card applications for any relative of a current green card holder, as well as work visas. Also, the primary rationale was not fear of spreading the disease but rather the fact that they would compete with U.S. citizens for jobs during a time of rising unemployment.
Regardless of the justification, such an extreme measure likely will hinder our efforts to rebound from the impact the virus has had on our people and our economy. The final order exempts healthcare workers, but it would impede the entry of new medical professionals who could help us bring the coronavirus under control.
The order likely will affect the Rio Grande Valley more than most other parts of the country. Much of our area’s population are immigrants, and many of them already have petitioned to bring their families to join them after they have settled into stable, productive lives.
Moreover, the loss of work visas will deprive many local farmers of the workers they need for the upcoming harvests. A shortage of such visas a couple of years ago left many shrimpers unable to hire crews and take to sea. The ramifications of unfilled jobs — jobs that already have proven virtually impossible to fill with U.S. citizens — affects the farmers, foreign workers who would earn — and spend — money in our communities, and everyone who will find emptier grocery store shelves this summer.
Other markets are affected as well. The American Immigration Council reports that immigrants comprise significant parts of the manufacturing, construction, hotel, retail and food service industries and cleaning and maintenance work — all areas that have trouble finding nativeborn workers.
Most importantly, is the president’s invocation of a problem that doesn’t exist. The current spike in unemployment largely results from businesses that were forced to close or scale back operations due to the pandemic. Once they are able to return to normal operations, those furloughed workers will be rehired, and the need for new workers will be as strong, and perhaps even stronger, than ever before.
As with previous efforts to close our borders, we expect legal challenges to the latest order, and like most of those challenges we expect them to succeed.
What’s most disheartening, however, is seeing that enough people share the president’s dislike for different people that he knows he can continue to make political hay with such tactics.