Anti-Immigration Opportunism in the Coronavirus Response

Under the guise of fighting the pandemic, the Trump administration carried out some of its most restrictive anti-immigration measures. While those measures' efficacy in preventing further spread of the coronavirus is debatable at best, what is certain is that the restrictions were long desired by Trump and administration officials.

One of former President Donald Trump’s first decisive measures during the early days of the pandemic was his March travel ban on most of Europe, though experts pointed out that it came too late to be effective. With the response to the crisis having been defined by a lack of federal leadership, this early action set the stage for the slew of anti-immigration policies the administration would unroll in the months that followed.

In the spring of 2020, ProPublica obtained a Border Patrol memo directing agents to turn asylum-seekers away at the U.S.-Mexico border without offering the migrants the opportunity to make their asylum cases. At the same time, the president announced that he was closing the border with Mexico, a closure that was extended in June. The use of a public health emergency to justify immigration restrictions had long been sought by then White House Senior Adviser Stephen Miller, an architect of many of the administration’s harshest immigration policies. 

In April 2020, Trump suspended immigration for 60 days, blocking green card recipients from moving to the U.S., restrictions that were expanded that June with bans on multiple categories of foreign workers and immigration visas through the end of 2020. Also in June, Education Secretary Betsy DeVos issued an emergency rule barring pandemic relief funds from going to foreign and undocumented students, including Dreamers. And two days after the Fourth of July, Immigration and Customs Enforcement released new regulations stating that foreign students must leave the country if their college is operating entirely online come fall.

American Oversight is investigating the rationale used by the Trump administration for such harsh measures, from the blocking of asylum-seekers to the deportations that spread the virus to other countries. We’re also looking into Miller’s influence over the response, and are seeking records that could shed light on the actual motives behind many policies.

Updates

New Documents Reveal More Details About Conditions in ICE Facilities During the Pandemic

July 13, 2021
As the pandemic surged in spring 2020, immigrants held in custody in Buffalo and Miami reported serious mental health and medical issues, as well as a lack of access to crucial supplies, such as soap and face masks.

Covid-19 Oversight News: Slowing Vaccine Rates, New Coronavirus Variant, and Emergent BioSolutions’ Big Year

June 21, 2021
For the latest news on the pandemic, as well as updates on various oversight investigations, sign up for our weekly Covid-19 Oversight News email.

Covid-19 Oversight News: Vaccine Eligibility, Covid-19 Origins, and New Pandemic Communications

June 1, 2021
For the latest news on the pandemic, as well as updates on various oversight investigations, sign up for our weekly Covid-19 Oversight News email.

Covid-19 Oversight News: New Mask Guidance for Vaccinated Individuals, Scrutiny of Air Purifiers Sold to Schools, and WHO Report on Global Response

May 17, 2021
For the latest news on the pandemic, as well as updates on various oversight investigations, sign up for our weekly Covid-19 Oversight News email.

Covid-19 Oversight News: Airborne Transmission, Vaccine Patents, and State Strategies to Incentivize Vaccinations

May 10, 2021
For the latest news on the pandemic, as well as updates on various oversight investigations, sign up for our weekly Covid-19 Oversight News email.

One Year of the Coronavirus Pandemic: The Federal Response

March 24, 2021
From the beginning of the coronavirus pandemic last year, a stumbling federal response exacerbated a once-in-a-lifetime public health crisis.

One Year of the Coronavirus Pandemic: Covid-19 in Prisons

March 18, 2021
In the last year, news outlets, watchdog groups, and government oversight offices have investigated the conditions inside prisons during the pandemic, as well as the causes of specific outbreaks.

One Year of Covid-19 Oversight

March 3, 2021
A timeline of the pandemic’s first 12 months and our efforts to hold government officials accountable for their handling of the historic public health crisis.

In March 2020 Email to Azar, Nielsen Recommended Company That DHS Had Used to Conduct DNA Testing at the Border

February 25, 2021
American Oversight obtained communications showing that the former homeland security secretary recommended that HHS work with a private company that had participated in a 2019 pilot program to test immigrant families’ DNA.

Covid-19 Oversight News: Vaccine Inequity, Super Bowl Parties, and CARES Act Oversight

February 8, 2021
For the latest news on the pandemic, as well as updates on various oversight investigations, sign up for our weekly Covid-19 Oversight News email.

News Roundup: As Covid-19 Rages, Trump Offers Rants and Reprieves

December 3, 2020
As the president remains focused on conspiracies and loyalty, the U.S. is facing a dire stage of the pandemic.

Open Questions About Trump Administration Policies

October 29, 2020
The tragically botched pandemic response and devastating practice of separating immigrant families are just some of the Trump administration’s actions that bear further scrutiny.

News Roundup: Restricting the Vote

October 15, 2020
As the election draws nearer, political observers are increasingly turning attention to poll results in states across the country. But of course, poll numbers don’t mean much if ballots aren’t counted — or if people can’t vote in the first place.

Investigations Update: The White House Outbreak, the Administration’s Naturalization Policy, and Texas’ Ballot Drop Boxes

October 6, 2020
See the latest in our investigations into the administration’s immigration policy, absentee voting requirements, and voter suppression in the states.

Covid-19 Oversight News: Scientific Integrity Concerns and Anti-Immigration Opportunism

September 14, 2020
For the latest news on the pandemic, as well as updates on various oversight investigations, sign up for our weekly Covid-19 Oversight News email.

The Latest in American Oversight’s Covid-19 Investigations

August 20, 2020
The suspension of asylum, Mardi Gras in New Orleans, and early guidance on the coronavirus — read the latest on what we've uncovered.

News Roundup: A Somber Week After Memorial Day

May 29, 2020
As states across the country enter various phases of “reopening,” sobering news about the federal government’s response to the coronavirus pandemic continues to emerge. 

News Roundup: One Firing, Multiple Scandals

May 22, 2020
Trump's firing of the State Department's inspector general has unearthed a series of concerning stories about the conduct of the very person who pressed for the firing — Secretary of State Mike Pompeo.

News Roundup: Protecting the Right to Vote During a Pandemic

May 1, 2020
Like many things in today’s politics, mail-in voting has become a political flashpoint as the November election gets closer.

News Roundup: Whose Stockpile, and Which States?

April 3, 2020
It shouldn’t be surprising that the president, who downplayed the crisis until just a few weeks ago, is once again avoiding taking responsibility.
Show all updates

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