President Trump said Tuesday he will halt immigration to the United States for 60 days, a freeze that will block green card recipients from moving to the country but will continue to allow temporary workers on nonimmigrant visas to enter.
Trump portrayed the action, which he first previewed in a tweet late Monday night, as an effort to protect American workers from competition overseas. He indicated during a White House briefing that there would be certain exemptions but did not elaborate.
The president provided a rationale for the unprecedented decision that was primarily economic, arguing that he wants Americans to have access to work as millions of people have lost their jobs amid the coronavirus crisis.
The text of the order was still being written, Trump said Tuesday night, but he expected to sign it on Wednesday.
“It would be wrong and unjust for Americans laid off by the virus to be replaced with new immigrant labor flown in from abroad,” Trump said at the briefing. “We must first take care of the American worker.”
The measure will include exemptions for certain groups, though it’s unclear how extensive they will be. Trump said farmers will not be affected by the order, appearing to confirm that visas for agricultural workers would fall outside the scope of the measure.
On Twitter, he cited "the attack from the invisible enemy", as he calls the virus, and the need to protect the jobs of Americans, but did not give details.
Immigrant visas are issued for those who have been approved to move permanently to the United States. The majority are family members of US citizens or permanent residents.
The United States already has suspended routine visa services overseas, so that very few would-be immigrants are likely to be stopped just before they board planes.
Harvard Business School professor William Kerr, whose research focuses on how high-skilled immigrant labor has reshaped the US economy, said closing off the pipeline for foreign talent could create barriers to economic success.