Trump to suspend issuing green cards for 60 days

President TrumpDonald John TrumpTrump marks 'very sad milestone' of 100K coronavirus deaths DOJ: George Floyd death investigation a 'top priority' Lifting our voices — and votes MORE on Tuesday announced details of his executive order to suspend immigration amid the coronavirus pandemic, saying the measure would initially last for 60 days and apply to those seeking permanent residence.

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.

“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.”

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Trump said the administration would stop issuing certain green cards for 60 days, a move that is certain to attract fiery opposition.

The text of the order was still being written, Trump said Tuesday night, but he expected to sign it on Wednesday.

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.

The most common type of green card applications are family-based immigration sponsorships for permanent residency of foreign nationals by their U.S. spouses.

Foreign nationals seeking to enter the United States were already unable to do so amid the pandemic, as consulates been closed for most visa interviews since last month.

Trump did not specify whether the suspension would apply equally to would-be permanent immigrants already in the country or only to those seeking first entry into the United States.

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A suspension limited to foreign nationals outside the country would formally enact a suspension that's already in place.

But a suspension affecting foreign nationals within the country seeking to change their status could put tens of thousands of people at risk of falling out of migratory status without recourse.

That would almost certainly invite extensive litigation at a time when courts, law firms and government buildings are closed due to the pandemic. Experts say Trump has broad authority on immigration after the Supreme Court upheld a version of his travel ban in 2018.

Democrats have excoriated Trump for the order, arguing he is using it to divert attention from criticism of his handling of the pandemic. Trump has come under intense criticism for downplaying the virus in January and February and for the administration’s slow pace of distributing testing materials and personal protective equipment.

Trump said his administration will review the order after 60 days and extend it or modify it depending on economic conditions. He did not lay out criteria for what would warrant lifting the order.

Most economic experts and elected officials expect an economic recovery will take months to fully take hold, raising the likelihood that the immigration suspension will extend through much of the year.

More than 22 million Americans have filed for unemployment benefits in recent weeks as measures intended to slow the spread of the virus have forced businesses to close or lay off workers.

But Trump has spoken optimistically about reopening the economy and has predicted the economy will rebound “like a rocket ship,” raising questions about the timing of the immigration pause.

Restricting immigration has been a cornerstone of Trump's agenda since taking office, and the coming executive order is sure to appeal to his base of supporters.

Trump shrugged off a question about accusations he was using the pandemic to justify the furtherance of his immigration agenda.

“I’m not doing that at all. I want the American worker and our American citizens to be able to get jobs,” he said. “I don’t want them to compete right now.”

Updated at 7:14 p.m.