When Donald Trump campaigned for his presidency, he campaigned on being tough on immigrants and the legal immigration system. Now, he is weaponizing the COVID-19 pandemic toward immigrants by making even more modifications to the country’s immigration system, affecting the lives of thousands who lay in the crosshairs.
Here is a list of some of the changes Trump has made to the immigration system since declaring a National Emergency over COVID-19:
March 10: Migrant Children
On March 10, the Office of Refugee Resettlement agency announced it will stop placing kids who arrive in the U.S. without parents or guardians into shelters in Washington or California.
These kids are taken into custody by the Department of Homeland Security, then transferred to the Health and Human Services Department. But now with the stoppage of placing kids, this will leave thousands of children without their parents or any care, and exposed to COVID-19.
March 13: Stopping ICE Visits
ICE announced it will stop allowing social visitation in all of its facilities, an agreement with Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Meanwhile, immigrant rights advocates state that prison guards and private companies who are contracted with ICE will continue to go in and out of detention facilities, creating contact with people.
March 17: Guatemala and U.S. Asylum Agreement Suspended.
The Guatemalan government announced that it will suspend any asylum proceedings out of caution regarding COVID-19. They said they will close all borders with an attempt to prevent the virus from spreading. This only adds more to the already backlog of asylum applications since the U.S. has signed a “safe third country” with Guatemala.
March 17: ICE Pushes Back Timeline For Recent Arrivals
With an attempt to “minimize the impact” of the coronavirus, ICE told congressional staffers that they will be rescheduling in-person appointments for immigrants. This will allow those who were recently released from the southern border to check in at 60 days, rather than the 30 days. This again adds to the backlog of paperwork.
March 17: U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services Suspend In-Person Services
To help mitigate the spread of the coronavirus, the government will be stopping all services that include naturalization ceremonies and all interviews for those who are really close to getting their citizenship. This Leaves thousands with the possibility of deportation.
March 18: Refugee Admission Stopped
In light of the COVID-19 pandemic, the United States will be stopping all refugee admissions, something Trump has been trying to do since taking office. A State Department spokesperson confirmed that the suspension will go until April 6—for now.
March 18: Department of Justice Closes Courts
The DOJ announced that it will close immigration courts from March 18 to April 10. In addition, it will be postponing all hearings regarding immigrants who are not in detention. This comes after immigration courts also paused those same hearings last year during the US government shutdown.
March 20: U.S./ Mexico Border
The United States and Mexico signed an agreement notifying a “Temporary Travel Restrictions Applicable to Land Ports of Entry and Ferries Service Between the United States and Mexico” with the exception of medical, work, or to attend school travel.
In addition, migrants who are arrested at the border will be returned to their country of origin with no due process. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention is working with the Department of Homeland Security to stop migrants from entering the country.