In what could become the latest salvo by the Trump administration targeting travel to the United States, newly proposed immigration rules may temporarily prohibit green card holders and even US citizens from entering the country, if they are suspected of being infected by the novel coronavirus.
The draft measures were first reported by The New York Times on Monday, and subsequently confirmed by Reuters.
What do the proposed immigration rules mean for green card holders and US citizens?
The draft regulation seeks to empower the US government to stop its own citizens or permanent residents from entering the country, if an official “reasonably believes the individual either may have been exposed to or is infected with the communicable disease,” the NYT reported.
The regulation would be issued by the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) – a federal agency that has played a key role in the country’s pandemic response. The CDC has a legal mandate to protect the country, and the new travel rules would be based on this authority.
Existing rules empower US officials to screen and quarantine American citizens who return from areas that are highly impacted by Covid-19. Foreigners can be denied entry.
Now, the new rules could hinder citizens and permanent residents from returning home for a temporary period, the duration of which has not been clarified.
Trump’s crackdown on immigration during the pandemic
Trump, who ran on an anti-immigration agenda during the 2016 election, has announced several measures to curb both legal and illegal migration to the US since coming into office. During the coronavirus pandemic, his administration has further curtailed immigration, while arguing that the steps are required to safeguard public health and protect the jobs of US workers.
In March, Trump implemented a public health emergency policy allowing US officials to override standard immigration laws while deporting migrants caught at the country’s southern border with Mexico.
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An executive order by Trump in April temporarily halted issuance of green cards, aiming to “turn off the faucet” of new immigrant labour into the country – in the words of top Trump strategist Stephen Miller.
In June, the US announced a temporary freeze in issuing H-1B and H-4 visas, a move that impacts Indian professionals the hardest.
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