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The Coronavirus Pandemic Confirms Urgent Need for U.S. Immigration Reform

When the World Health Organization declared the coronavirus pandemic in March 2020, United States President Donald Trump was busy with the political campaign for his reelection. At that time, some of the messages Trump delivered during his rallies were centered on immigration topics. Trump talked about ideas that would enable the construction of his border wall project, and he also praised his own record of massive deportations, but he never talked about the need for immigration reform. In the uncertain environment surrounding the policies of U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services, San Diego residents who are immigrants are understandably concerned about their futures.

Months later, after more than 115,000 Americans have lost their lives to COVID-19, Trump has become more of a hard-liner on immigration issues. Under the guise of making sure 40 million unemployed Americans are first in line to get their jobs back, Trump has virtually halted all immigration. In fact, he has shrugged off criticism about resuming massive deportations. What’s happening in the U.S. is in sharp contrast to what has taken place in the United Kingdom.

After British Prime Minister Boris Johnson tested positive for the coronavirus in April 2020, there were serious concerns about his health. PM Johnson spent a few days in intensive care at St. Thomas Hospital in London. Upon being discharged, he expressed effusive gratitude for the care he received, and he specifically thanked two healthcare professionals who happened to be immigrants, one from New Zealand and the other from Portugal. In the weeks following his discharge from the hospital, PM Johnson has been softening his stance on Brexit. He plans to keep UK borders open to maintain the flow of food, medicines, and essential supplies, and he has ordered a review of British immigration policies because he wants to ensure essential migrant workers are treated fairly.

While millions of Americans have stayed home under lockdown restrictions enacted to mitigate the spread of COVID-19, essential workers have done their best to keep the country running. Many of these essential workers are employed in the transportation, healthcare, agricultural, sanitation, utilities, and food service industries. In many cases, these are low-paying jobs performed by immigrants whose legal status in the U.S. is uncertain.

Undocumented immigrants aren’t the only ones at risk of being deported from the U.S. Migrants on Temporary Protected Status (TPS) could be sent back to countries where the coronavirus pandemic has deeply ravaged their economies. These are countries where public health systems have already collapsed and run out of funding. 

Foreign-born Americans covered by the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) program received a temporary reprieve this month when the Supreme Court ruled against the Trump administration’s attempts to end the DACA program. Writing the opinion for the court, Chief Justice John Roberts made it clear the ruling was based solely on procedural considerations: “The dispute before the Court is not whether DHS may rescind DACA. All parties agree that it may,” the chief justice wrote. “The dispute is instead primarily about the procedure the agency followed in doing so.” 

Quite a few migrants classified under the DACA and TPS programs have made significant contributions to the U.S. as essential workers during the coronavirus pandemic. These immigrants should be on the minds of American lawmakers and government officials the next time the issue of immigration reform is approached in the White House and Congress.

Immigration reform is desperately needed in the Trump era. The political balance in Congress doesn’t allow for comprehensive reform. However, things may have to change one law at a time or one court case at a time. The best plan of action for immigrants in Southern California is to seek the advice and representation of KS Visa Law, the best immigration attorneys in San Diego, CA. Give us a call today at 858-874-0711 to find out how we can help.

April 2024