The latest White House coronavirus briefing came in the wake of President Trump’s surprise announcement Monday that he would block all immigration into the United States. He elaborated on what that would mean, and public health experts shared updates on the battle against the virus. Here’s what you need to know.
He said it will affect those seeking permanent residency, halting the issuance of green cards. It does not apply to temporary migrant workers. More details are forthcoming; Trump plans to sign the order Wednesday, and he left open the possibility of further restrictions at a later time.
Trump also said he would evaluate whether to extend the ban after 60 days “based on economic conditions at that time.” These are the first details the administration has provided since Trump tweeted at 10:06 p.m. Monday night he would be “suspending immigration” to protect American jobs.
In light of the attack from the Invisible Enemy, as well as the need to protect the jobs of our GREAT American Citizens, I will be signing an Executive Order to temporarily suspend immigration into the United States!
Trump’s comments Tuesday emphasized the economic argument for not bringing in more people, rather than claiming a public health impetus. “It would be wrong and unjust for Americans laid off by the virus to be replaced with new immigrant labor flown in from abroad,” he said.
Under questioning from reporters, Trump denied he was taking advantage of the moment to restrict legal immigration, something he has done over the course of his presidency. But he would not say, for example, what kind of economic conditions he’d reopen immigration up again, which was already largely on pause due to coronavirus. “I could roll it for more than 60 days,” he said.
In a sign of how hasty Trump’s Monday night tweet announcing the policy was, he said Tuesday evening that the executive order is still being written.
“There’s a possibility that the assault of the virus on our nation next winter will actually be even more difficult than the one we just went through,” CDC Director Robert Redfield told The Washington Post in an interview Tuesday.
White House coronavirus response coordinator Deborah Birx said Tuesday she didn’t necessarily agree with that.
“I think this has been pretty bad when you see what has happened in New York, that was very bad,” she said. She said she expects governments would have early warning signals for future outbreaks.
She did separately share some good news, that the government data show improvement across almost all large metro areas — from New York to Detroit to Boston to Chicago (with a notable exception from the Washington, D.C., area). But she did say the government is continuing to seeing outbreaks in nursing homes especially in rural areas.
Birx was also put on the spot on reopening the economy, specifically in the way the governor of Georgia is considering. But with Trump behind her, who had just said he trusted Gov. Brian Kemp’s (R) decision to allow hair and salons and tattoo parlors to open, Birx had to use a rather tortured logic. She said that maybe if people can get those while following the guidelines, that would be okay: “If there is a way that people can social distance and do those things, then they can do those things. I don’t know how, but people are very creative.”
She would not advise further on what businesses and customers should do if state leaders allow a business that isn’t conducive to social distancing to open: “I’m not going to second-judge anyone about their decision-making, what I can say is we were really clear about what protects Americans.”
The response illustrated the tension between Trump and some Republican governors and public health experts right now on the urgency of reopening the economy.
Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin said he was giving chain businesses like Ruth’s Chris Steak House, Potbelly sandwich chain and hotels the benefit of the doubt that they didn’t understand the intent of the loan program Congress passed several weeks ago, which was to infuse small businesses that don’t otherwise have access to capital.
A last-minute change in the law allowed individual branches of larger chain companies to apply, and they were loaned millions. That contributed to running the program dry in a matter of weeks, reported The Post’s Jonathan O’Connell. Shake Shack, for example, gave its $10 million loan back.
Congress is on its way to approving more than $300 billion more for the small-business loan program, and Mnuchin and Trump said they expected these larger businesses to pay back the loans soon, and warned of consequences.
“We want to make sure this money is available to small businesses that need it, people who have invested their entire life savings,” Mnuchin said.
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