- The Washington Times - Tuesday, April 28, 2020

Democrats blasted President Trump’s attempt to pause some immigration during the coronavirus crisis, saying Tuesday that the battle against COVID-19 is actually an opportunity to welcome migrants and show more leniency toward undocumented immigrants in particular.

Senate Minority Leader Charles E. Schumer called Mr. Trump’s 60-day pause on some immigrants a “phony immigration ban,” accusing the president of trying to turn immigrants into “scapegoats” for a souring economy and poor job prospects.

Instead of punishing them, he said, they should be rewarded.

“Dreamers” here under the Obama-era DACA deportation amnesty, and hundreds of thousands more here under special Temporary Protected Status should immediately have their work permits renewed, giving them the certainty they’ll be able to work during the crisis and beyond.

Democrats said some 200,000 DACA recipients and 130,000 TPS holders are working in essential industries during the virus outbreak.

“What do you think a health crisis without immigrants looks like?” said Senate Minority Whip Richard Durbin, Illinois Democrat, who joined Mr. Schumer on a conference call.

Immigration is always a flash point, but it’s become a major battleground for coronavirus politics.

The Trump administration has imposed some of the strictest border and immigration policies ever seen, both to keep out potential virus vectors and, in the case of blocking new immigrants, Mr. Trump says to give laid off Americans a better shot at jobs as the economy picks up.

Analysts say in reality his 60-day pause on legal immigration only affects a few tens of thousands of newcomers in the next couple months, so it’s not clear how much help it will be.

The public would actually be willing to go ever further than Mr. Trump.

A Washington Post-University of Maryland poll released Tuesday found 65% of those surveyed embraced “a temporary halt on nearly all immigration during the coronavirus outbreak.”

Mr. Trump’s pause actually still allows a significant amount of legal immigration, and also does nothing to halt visas for foreign guest workers who come to take jobs on a temporary basis.

A Huffington Post/YouGov poll released Monday found a majority of Americans say limiting immigration is effective in controlling the coronavirus outbreak. Yet the same poll showed Americans do support leniency for undocumented immigrants, with 59% saying they support the immigrants getting a pathway to citizenship.

The American Immigration Council said Mr. Trump’s restrictions “look suspiciously like the immigration cuts the president has been seeking in Congress for years.”

Democrats’ calls for protections and legal status for immigrants in the U.S. illegally also align with their own plans.

But Mr. Schumer said the virus is creating new challenges — and opportunities.

On Monday, a group of Senate Democrats demanded that the Trump administration grant DACA recipients in college the same access to federal coronavirus assistance that citizens are entitled to, challenging an Education Department decision to apply existing federal law that limits financial aid.

“These students should not be excluded from critical emergency financial aid. Indeed, those who are especially vulnerable to economic hardship are exactly whom these funds were designed to help,” more than two dozen Democrats wrote.

Democrats have also called for undocumented immigrants to be granted access to stimulus payments. Congress has not approved that plan, but California Gov. Gavin Newsom announced his state would step in, along with nonprofits, to provide payments in lieu of Uncle Sam.

On Tuesday’s call, Democrats were joined by TPS and DACA recipients who said they are doing their part and who pleaded for immediate protections and asked Congress to provide them if the administration won’t.

“My patients don’t care about my immigration status, they care about the high quality of care that I am providing,” said Jose Aguiluz, a DACA holder who is on furlough from his emergency room nurse job and is instead volunteering at a COVID-19 drive-thru testing site in the Washington metropolitan region.

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