A car passes a yard displaying a campaign sign for Democratic presidential candidate, former Vice President Joe Biden on…
A car passes a yard displaying a campaign sign for Democratic presidential candidate, former Vice President Joe Biden on June 23, 2020 in North Hampton, New Hampshire.

WASHINGTON - Joe Biden, the presumptive Democratic presidential nominee, on Tuesday denounced Trump’s increased immigration restrictions as “yet another attempt to distract” from his administration’s “failure to lead an effective response to COVID-19.” 

President Donald Trump on Monday issued a presidential proclamation temporarily blocking highly skilled foreign workers and seasonal laborers from entering the country, citing the need to protect American jobs during a period of high employment caused by the coronavirus pandemic.  

President Donald Trump speaks with reporters before departing on Marine One on the South Lawn of the White House, June 23, 2020, in Washington.

The U.S. unemployment rate in May surpassed 13%, and more than 40 million Americans applied for unemployment, due in large part to widespread business closures to prevent the spread of the virus. 

“The economic contraction resulting from the COVID-19 outbreak,” Trump’s proclamation said, poses “an unusual threat to the employment of American workers.” 

The new order, expanding earlier immigration restrictions put in place by the Trump administration, is expected to affect over half a million jobs in technology, landscaping and service industries. However, it does not block workers in the agricultural sector, and it also exempts food processing workers and people whose entry is deemed in the national interest. 

Political ploy  

Biden, who served as President Barack Obama’s vice president, suggested Trump’s motivation for expanding the immigration ban was a political ploy to shift public focus away from rising coronavirus infection rates in parts of the country, and the president’s downplaying of the public health threat. 

“The President can't scapegoat his way out of this crisis,” said Biden in a Twitter post. 

Biden did not address the merits of Trump’s immigration restrictions related to high unemployment. But according to Tom Jawetz, an immigration analyst at the Democratic-leaning Center for American Progress, a Biden administration would not demonize immigrants. Instead it would weigh the economic needs of the country and the effect on labor markets.  

“You can have a period of high unemployment in the country, but low unemployment in certain sectors of the economy in certain industries,” said Jawetz, adding that cutting off the flow of immigrant workers could “cause targeted pain to those industries that are heavily reliant on them.” 

In this June 17, 2020, photo, Democratic presidential candidate, former Vice President Joe Biden speaks in Darby, Pa.

Fair and humane 

Biden’s proposed plan emphasizing “fair and humane immigration” sharply contrasts with Trump’s focus on building a wall on the Mexican border, restricting legal immigration and employing harsh measures to deter and deport undocumented migrants. 

If elected, Biden promises to “immediately reverse” the Trump administration’s policies that separate parents from their children at the U.S. border when they arrive seeking asylum. He is also promising to restore legal and humanitarian protections for asylum-seekers and would work with Central American leaders to reduce the violence and lack of opportunities in the region that drive illegal immigration. 

Biden would reinstate “dreamers” protections that allow undocumented immigrants who came to the U.S. as children, to live and work in the country. These protections were first issued by Obama in 2012. Last week, the Supreme Court temporarily blocked the Trump administration from ending the program on procedural grounds.   

Biden opposes Trump’s travel ban affecting many Muslim majority countries as “morally wrong” and said, “there is no intelligence or evidence that suggests it makes our nation more secure.” 

And Biden pledged to work with Congress to create a path to citizenship for undocumented immigrants living in the U.S. and to implement other needed reforms.   

While courting the Latino voters who support pro-immigration policies, Biden in February said it was a “big mistake” that during the Obama-Biden administration hundreds of thousands of undocumented immigrants without criminal records were deported. 

Jawetz said the Biden campaign “has made very clear that they that they learned that lesson” and do not intend to repeat it.