Gauging the Democrat and Republican Response to Coronavirus
Preston Huennekens | FAIR Take | April 2020
The coronavirus pandemic continues to shape every aspect of public policy, and immigration is no different. Rather than driving Democrats and Republicans closer together on an immigration consensus, the coronavirus fallout continues to wedge the parties farther apart on this issue.
Democrats in Congress continue to attack President Trump for his handling of the coronavirus response. President Trump acted first by shutting down travel with countries that had high rates of coronavirus infection. Presidential candidate Joe Biden panned Trump’s China travel ban as “xenophobic” and “fear-mongering,” even though over 80 percent of Americans agree that pausing immigration is the right move.
Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer (D-N.Y.) blasted the executive order temporarily banning some immigration as a “phony immigration ban” designed to deflect responsibility for the souring economy onto immigrants. Senator Schumer then suggested that DACA recipients receive extra protections through the crisis.
Democrats also attacked Department of Education Secretary Betsy DeVos for barring stimulus money from going to illegal alien students, including those in the DACA program. In two letters, the Democrats argued that the Education Department went beyond the CARES Act text to make this change, claiming that nothing in the bill prohibited DACA students from receiving education aid and that the section was not written to provide aid only to those eligible for federal loans.
Democrats in both chambers continue to introduce legislation that benefits illegal aliens at the expense of American citizens, including the FIRST Act which would end immigration enforcement across the country and release thousands of potentially dangerous criminal aliens from immigration detention. Rep. Lou Correa (D-Calif.) introduced the No Taxpayer Left Behind Act, which would send stimulus checks to illegal aliens.
Congressional Republicans remain relatively silent on the issue of immigration when compared to their colleagues across the aisle. Importantly, Republican leadership in the Senate kept the CARES Act from including any handouts to illegal aliens. In the next round of stimulus funding, they must continue to stand firm against the Democratic demands to include illegal aliens in future packages.
Notably, Rep. Matt Gaetz (R-Fla.) introduced the PANDEMIC Act, a legislative response to Rep. Jayapal’s FIRST Act. The PANDEMIC Act would deport all illegal aliens from the United States during a national emergency due to a contagion, as a way to reduce the number of people in detention.
The White House and Federal Agencies
The White House and its federal agencies have done the most to address the immigration-related issues of the coronavirus crisis. A timeline of immigration actions (January to Present) is available on our website for a more detailed analysis.
Notably, President Trump moved quickly at the onset of the crisis to ban travel from countries that had high rates of infection. The White House continued to monitor the situation in both Canada and Mexico, and with those countries jointly closed non-essential travel on both our northern and southern borders.
The State Department (DOS) suspended visa processing overseas, essentially slowing all new immigration from individuals living outside of the United States.
The Department of Homeland Security (DHS) and Department of Agriculture (USDA) moved to ease entry into the U.S. for H-2A agricultural guestworkers, a move that FAIR opposed and called short-sighted and amounted to a giveaway for big agricultural and their lobbyists.
The President issued a proclamation justifying the suspension of some classes of immigrants. We had hope that this executive action would ban new guestworker arrivals, arguably the largest source of competition with American workers. Instead, this order falls woefully short and in fact bans only a small number of immigrants. FAIR continues to call on the administration to issue a new executive order banning all guestworker programs, citing the 30 million Americans out of work in industries that traditionally use temporary guestworkers.
FAIR has a new resource page on President Trump’s April 22 Executive Order that fully explains our position.