Poma: Trump’s COVID-19 Immigration Policies Are Self-Serving at Best


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By Sasha Poma, Assistant Opinion Editor


In March, Trump announced that he would close Canadian and Mexican borders until Easter – or at least until the pandemic subsides. In May, Trump announced that he would be extending the border closure “indefinitely,” and we have yet to see any developments. I speculated in an earlier op-ed that given his track record, Trump may not lift the ban any time soon, and so far, he’s only proven that right. His administration also continues to consider and develop new policies regarding green cards, asylum and visas. Not to mention, the Trump administration already deported thousands of migrants despite concerns for their safety. Trump’s policies have targeted migrants seeking legalization, but he continues to benefit from migrant labor on the front lines. Despite the global pandemic and recent national uprising, the president’s COVID-19 immigration policies show that he continues to act in his personal interest.

Trump has had no problem providing temporary working visas in an attempt to keep the economy afloat. Undocumented immigrants comprise around 280,000 of essential healthcare workers. In one high profile New York example, Doctor Ydelfonso Decoo, an immigrant pediatrician,  died of COVID-19 after treating patients in marginalized communities. DACA students make up another significant portion of healthcare workers, as it’s been all-hands-on-deck for professionals and medical students alike. Immigrants also account for a substantial portion of essential employees in such as farmers and grocery store workers. Many of these employees are already in unsafe working environments. Trump instructed meatpacking plants to stay open, even though proper protection was not given to workers. And many immigrant workers cannot access benefits even though they’re considered crucial during the pandemic. Immigrants are consistently exploited in these essential industries but without them, the economy may be in worse shape than it already is.

But Trump continues to push the narrative that it is unsafe for the US to open its borders for migrants. Strangely enough, he also wants everyone to get back to work for the sake of the economy, which directly contradicts his stance on immigration. In April, Trump said he would suspend green cards and “prohibit immigration,” wanting to keep jobs open only for American citizens. But, in early March, he made 35,000 worker visas available while capping those who receive asylum and other visas. On top of all of this, it is well known that Trump employs undocumented immigrants at his businesses and estates despite his anti-immigrant rhetoric.

Trump and his administration cherry-pick from whom they will wrongfully benefit and who they will turn away, which only highlights the xenophobia behind these policies. Some workers, especially now, have become trapped in the US and still risk deportation, regardless of how essential they are. Migrants, asylees, and visa seekers alike continue to be deported or turned away at an alarming rate, with the administration citing the pandemic as the reason. This erratic policy-making contradicts itself constantly. If no proper legalization is available to immigrants during the pandemic, the country shouldn’t continue to exploit the benefits.

Immigrants have always been taken for granted, but especially now, the true nature of the Trump administration’s agenda has come to light. They’ve wanted an excuse to make immigration even more difficult for a while now, and this was the perfect opportunity to push his policies forward. Trump and his staff sought out reasons to suspend immigration before COVID-19, particularly when the flu began to spread in detention centers. It isn’t much of a surprise that Trump’s selfish tactics continue to only benefit his agenda with little to no regard for those who keep this country running. As community members, we need to ensure that fellow migrants feel safe and know they have support, regardless of the current administration. Immigrants are risking their lives every day during the pandemic. They should receive the benefits they deserve and their work should be highlighted. They should not continue to go unnoticed because of Trump’s nonsensical policies.


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Editor’s note: Signs and symptoms of COVID-19 include fever, dry cough, tiredness and shortness of breath. These symptoms are believed to occur between two and 14 days after a person is exposed to the disease. If you have these symptoms and have recently come into contact with a person who is known to have COVID-19, or if you have recently traveled to an area with community spread of the disease, you should call your doctor. Areas with community spread of COVID-19 are believed to include China, South Korea, Italy, Iran and Seattle. If you do not have a doctor who you visit regularly, please call the Utah Coronavirus Information Line at 1-800-456-7707 or the University of Utah Health hotline at 801-587-0712. Do not go to a healthcare facility without first making arrangements to do so.