Skip to main content

Sign up for our newsletter.

Quality journalism. Progressive values. Direct to your inbox.

State Department visas for legal immigrants to the U.S. plunged in the wake of the coronavirus pandemic, leading critics to fault the administration for its policies on immigration. (Image: Curt Merrill/CNN)

Trump Administration Has Exploited Pandemic to Effectively Shut Down All Immigration: Report

"Beforehand I would say that staying in the U.S. was my first option for my career. Now, being honest, Canada, Europe, and New Zealand and Australia seem like a much better choice."

Eoin Higgins

President Donald Trump's well-established antipathy toward immigrants has gone into overdrive as Covid-19 continues to rage around the world as the White House has used the pandemic to severely restrict visas to the U.S., leaving refugees stranded and leading professionals to consider pursuing their options elsewhere. 

"Beforehand I would say that staying in the U.S. was my first option for my career," Yale PhD student Vitor Possebom told CNN. "Now, being honest, Canada, Europe, and New Zealand and Australia seem like a much better choice."

In an analysis of immigration patterns and the effects of Trump administration decrees and shut-downs of legal ways to enter the country, CNN estimated that the country is seeing a precipitous drop in asylum claims, work visas, and refugee admissions. The Trump era has been marked by drops in immigration and the setting up of hurdles to legal entry but the pandemic has sent those efforts into high gear. 

The ACLU, in a statement in June on the administration's Covid-19 immigration restrictions, put the blame for the rules on Trump and his extremist advisor Stephen Miller. 

"The Trump administration has banned asylum seekers at the border, green card applicants, foreign students, and now even more immigrants, who are instrumental to our nation's economic recovery," the group said. "Congress should immediately investigate the true purpose—and ramifications—of these Stephen Miller bans."

In a tweet referring to the administration's disastrous response to the pandemic and the decline in immigration, journalist Thomas Seymat described the drop in visas as "the only curve they flattened."

As CNN reported:

In a pair of White House immigration proclamations issued in April and June, the administration suspended much of family-based immigration and a number of guest worker visas through the end of the year, with some exceptions. The Migration Policy Institute estimated that some 167,000 temporary workers will be kept out of the United States and 26,000 green cards will be blocked monthly

As a result of the outbreak, consulates overseas had to close, making it nearly impossible for people overseas to obtain visas. Since January, the number of non-immigrant visas issued has plummeted 94%.

"You would expect that during this massive public health and economic crisis that the administration's agenda would be sidelined," Migration Policy Institute policy analyst Sarah Pierce told CNN, "but instead it's been as aggressive if not more aggressive than it's ever been."

Meanwhile, U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) has ceased printing documents for legal immigrants and green card holders, the Washington Post's Catherine Rampell wrote Thursday, meaning "the Trump administration is turning legal immigrants into undocumented ones."

According to Rampell:

Some 50,000 green cards and 75,000 other employment authorization documents promised to immigrants haven't been printed, USCIS said in a statement. The agency said it had planned to escalate printing but that it "cannot speculate on future projections of processing times." In the event of furloughs—which the agency has threatened if it does not get a $1.2 billion loan from Congress—"all agency operations will be affected."

"The 'show me your papers' administration has literally switched off printers needed to generate those 'papers,'" wrote Rampell.

As Florida immigration attorney Anis Saleh told Rampell, the "overall efficiency of the immigration process" is suffering due to decisions made by the Trump administration—a result that the lawyer suggested was part of the plan.

"The administration has accomplished its goal of shutting down legal immigration without actually changing the law," said Saleh.

Our work is licensed under Creative Commons (CC BY-NC-ND 3.0). Feel free to republish and share widely.

... We've had enough. The 1% own and operate the corporate media. They are doing everything they can to defend the status quo, squash dissent and protect the wealthy and the powerful. The Common Dreams media model is different. We cover the news that matters to the 99%. Our mission? To inform. To inspire. To ignite change for the common good. How? Nonprofit. Independent. Reader-supported. Free to read. Free to republish. Free to share. With no advertising. No paywalls. No selling of your data. Thousands of small donations fund our newsroom and allow us to continue publishing. Can you chip in? We can't do it without you. Thank you.

GOP 'Silence Speaks Volumes,' Says Ilhan Omar as Boebert's Bigotry Goes Unpunished

"Normalizing this bigotry not only endangers my life but the lives of all Muslims. Anti-Muslim bigotry has no place in Congress."

Brett Wilkins ·

Africans Should Be 'Applauded, Not Punished,' Say Advocates Amid Omicron Travel Ban

"What is going on right now is inevitable," said African Union Vaccine Delivery Alliance co-chair Dr. Ayoade Alakija. "It's a result of the world's failure to vaccinate in an equitable, urgent, and speedy manner."

Brett Wilkins ·

Biden Drilling Report Blasted as 'Shocking Capitulation to the Needs of Corporate Polluters'

"Greenlighting more fossil fuel extraction, then pretending it's OK by nudging up royalty rates, is like rearranging deck chairs on the Titanic," said one campaigner.

Jessica Corbett ·

UNESCO Members Adopt First Global AI Ethics Agreement 'To Benefit Humanity'

"We're at a critical juncture in history," said Ethics in Tech founder Vahid Razavi. "We need as humans to come together and decide what is the best course of action to take with these technologies before they surpass us in their abilities."

Brett Wilkins ·

Progressive US Lawmakers Mark Black Friday With Calls to Pass the PRO Act

"The right to organize, fight for better working conditions, and fair pay must always be protected."

Jessica Corbett ·

Support our work.

We are independent, non-profit, advertising-free and 100% reader supported.

Subscribe to our newsletter.

Quality journalism. Progressive values.
Direct to your inbox.

Subscribe to our Newsletter.

Common Dreams, Inc. Founded 1997. Registered 501(c3) Non-Profit | Privacy Policy
Common Dreams Logo