Mexico Us (La Presse)

Will Stricter Immigration Bans Really Help Fight COVID-19?

As the number of COVID-19 cases continues to escalate in Europe and the US, American President Donald Trump, French President Emmanuel Macron and Spanish Prime Minister Pedro Sánchez have all either brought in or intend to introduce their own separate measures to temporarily halt immigration.

Immigration Bans and COVID-19

Although Trump closed US borders to foreigners traveling from China during the early stages of the virus, he intends to go one step further now by signing an Executive Order that will enforce his full proposed immigration ban.

The US President has rebuked calls from conservatives to close the borders to protect US jobs because immigrants would be likely to apply for jobs such as landscaping and crab-picking. He was aware that without immigration, no one else would be willing to apply for those sorts of jobs.

Meanwhile in France, Macron has banned all flights outside the EU’s Schengen zone.

The Spanish Government has extended the temporary restrictions placed upon non-essential travel from third countries to European ones for reasons of public order and public health until May 15th. Non-EU nationals will be allowed to travel if they are returning to their place of residence or possess a long-term visa provided by an EU country to which they are going to work.

Criticism of Trump’s Decision

Trump’s move has already been criticized by the US technology sector. According to the Pew Research Center, more than one million immigrants arrive in the US each year and many of them originate from China, India and Mexico.

Latha Olavatth, who works for immigration specialist Newland Chase, told the BBC that the US President’s measure will particularly impact the IT sector as many of those immigrants move to New York, Texas and California, three states where tech giants such as Facebook, Google and Cisco are located.

The Guardian’s David Smith believes that Trump’s ban is also likely to run into legal problems as such an executive order would be a far-reaching use of executive power. For example, will it apply to temporary guest workers, including those who work on farms?

The President’s Priority is Reopening the Economy

However, the US President’s priority is to reopen the economy and prevent the coronavirus from crippling it further. A Department of Homeland Security (DHS) official said that they want to ensure that 22 million Americans who have lost their jobs already due to the pandemic are provided with the opportunity to work again.

Roy Beck, President of NumbersUSA, told Politico that immigration currently makes no sense because there are millions of Americans who need to be prioritized when it comes to recruitment.

There seems to be no evidence of economic motives behind the French and Spanish governments’ immigration bans, but New Zealand is a useful case study for arguing that these measures can halt the number of COVID-19 cases.

An immigration Ban Worked in New Zealand

The New Zealand Government implemented its ban on March 19 and it applied to all countries and nationalities. Since then the country has avoided a widespread outbreak, and new cases have dwindled from about 90 per day in early April to just five on Tuesday.

Equally, New Zealand’s healthcare system was unprepared for a measles outbreak last year and questions remain over whether it can implement contract tracing should a widespread outbreak occur again, which shows their response to the pandemic has not been entirely perfect.

The US, France and Spain have initiated their immigration bans for different purposes. Trump is doing it for economic reasons whilst the French and Spanish authorities are focused on prevention. The US President’s Executive Order might not even happen if it encounters any legal problems that will delay its implementation. Yet New Zealand proves how effective this measure is and it is a pity other nations did not follow its example sooner.