Local Advocacy for Immigrants Surges After Trump’s Temporary Immigration Ban

by Elizabeth Turnbull

President Donald Trump sent a tweet on April 20, stating that he would “temporarily suspend immigration into the United States.” Two days later, the president signed an executive order suspending immigration, an action that Seattle officials view as an attempt to deflect from his handling of the coronavirus outbreak, and one that activists suspect will greatly impact families. 

While emphasizing that Seattle remains a city welcoming of immigrants, Seattle Mayor Jenny Durkan described the ban as an effort to distract from the president’s mishandling of the novel coronavirus pandemic. 

“The President’s newest threat is him yet again scapegoating families and workers to cover up for his administration’s continued mishandling of the COVID-19 pandemic,” Mayor Durkan said in a statement addressing the ban. “COVID-19 is hurting so many people and exhausting frontline health care workers, many of whom are immigrants themselves.”

In the same statement issued by the City of Seattle on April 21, Congresswoman Pramila Jayapal, King County Executive Dow Constantine and Council President Lorena González all echoed the idea that the ban uses immigrants as scapegoats to shift the public gaze away from the president’s leadership failures during the pandemic. 

“No matter how much Trump tries to blame ‘the other’ for his failure, King County remains welcoming to those who come here seeking a better life, and who continue to make our region stronger and more competitive,” Executive Constantine said. 

The ban does not apply to individuals who are on immigrant visas as health professionals, workers on H2-A visas, spouses of U.S. citizens, prospective adoptees, children of U.S. citizens under the age of 21, or adoptees, among other exceptions. 

Given the number of exceptions in the policy, Rich Stolz, the Executive Director of OneAmerica, the largest immigrant and refugee advocacy organization in Washington State, told the Emerald the ban is likely to be felt the most by immigrant families in Seattle who have been waiting to be reunited with loved ones. 

“For family members, the ban will create greater uncertainty about when they may be reunited with their loved ones,” Stolz wrote in an email on Thursday.

Malou Chávez, staff attorney at Northwest Immigrant Rights Project, said that the ban is intended to shut down the legal process for pursuing lawful immigration status, making it harder for people to become U.S. citizens.

Chavez, like Stolz, emphasized the impact this ban can have on Washington families and also expressed concern that this ban may increase the risk of deportation for undocumented immigrants. 

“I fear community members would be targeted in immigration enforcement efforts even more so and the continued separation of families and detention of community members would be the end result,” Chávez said. 

While the ban technically expires after 60 days of its effective date, the order also states that “it may be continued as necessary.” 

Stolz fears that the ban will be extended past the initially-allocated 60 days and believes that President Trump is using the current economic crisis as a pretense for the ban and that it is in fact an effort to reduce legal immigration to the United States.

“That’s why we need to name this ban for what it is — an effort to reduce legal immigration to the United States — and advocate for the ban to be lifted,” Stolz told the Emerald

Elizabeth Turnbull is a recent journalism graduate with a passion for writing human-centric pieces. Some of her most recent work includes writing for the Jordan Times where she highlighted issues faced by refugees.