Local leaders, business owner react to President Trump temporarily suspending immigration amid COVID-19 economy reboot


KNOXVILLE, Tenn. (WATE) — Local lawmakers, a nonprofit leader and the owner of the “Nicest Places in America” are sharing their thoughts on President Trump’s action to temporarily suspend immigration to the U.S. amid the COVID-19 outbreak and economic recovery plans.

President Trump tweeted Monday that he planned to sign an executive order temporarily suspending immigration into the country.

Trump said Tuesday that the executive order, which hasn’t yet been fully drafted or signed, will help protect jobs for American workers. On Wednesday, the president signed a proclamation temporarily suspending immigration into the United States.

“By pausing immigration, we’ll help put unemployed Americans first in line for jobs as America reopens,” Trump said.

RELATED: Pres. Trump signs order imposing new immigration limits

Claudia Caballero, president of Centro Hispano de East Tennessee, said that immigrants in America are just like every other citizen, especially when it comes to dealing with the current pandemic.

“We’re essential workers, we’re first responders, we’re doctors, we’re nurses, we’re maintenance, we’re mechanics, we harvest the food and we’re just as stressed as everyone else in America and the virus impacts all of us,” Caballero said.

She said that it might not change how immigrants are currently working, but it will affect their morale.

“It’s the negative feeling more than anything, that idea of not being wanted after giving your life to a community, and you give your work and dedication. It’s heartbreaking to feel from a national level that this is what’s being told and what’s being heard throughout our country,” Caballero said.

Caballero said the coronavirus has already impacted immigrants. Some are in limbo because most law offices and court houses are closed.

She said that Centro Hispano and its partners are making sure to still inform local immigrants about COVID-19 and the safety guidelines, as well as offering resources so they can keep moving forward, regardless of political rhetoric.

President Trump said on Tuesday, that the order will only apply to individuals seeking permanent residency, not those entering the country on a temporary basis, such as those with green cards.

The order would also be in effect for 60 days, “after which the need for any extension or modification will be evaluated by myself and a group of people, based on economic conditions at the time.”

U.S. Rep. Tim Burchett (R-Tenn, 2nd district), said he agreed with the president’s decision.

“President Trump’s decision to temporarily suspend immigration will protect American jobs and public health as we focus on re-opening the economy. Agricultural workers can be temporarily admitted when the time is right, but the Trump Administration is making the right call to shut down our borders until this crisis is over.”

U.S. Representative Burchett

Burchett also said on Wednesday that the suspension could help Americans get more benefits during the pandemic.

“Our social programs are stretched to the limit right now, and with the influx of more people competing in our work force, and also folks carrying in the virus too, I think it’s a good idea and a wise move by the president,” Burchett said.

The two other congressmen for East Tennessee also agreed with the president’s decision.

“President Trump made a difficult but smart decision to temporarily suspend immigration to the U.S. as we combat COVID-19. This virus has cost the lives of thousands of Americans and has cost millions of Americans their jobs. We must take every measure possible to protect available jobs for Americans seeking to return to work.”

U.S. Rep. Chuch Fleischmann (R-Tenn) 3rd District

“President Trump has made it clear that he is focused on protecting American citizens’ health and jobs. Despite vocal criticism, the president made the right decision weeks ago to limit travel from countries affected by the coronavirus, and I believe his critics owe him the benefit of the doubt now. As the administration considers a pause in immigration, it is vital that essential industries like agriculture continue to have the workers they need to get our economy restarted and back to being the best in the world.”

U.S. Rep. Phil Roe (R-Tenn) 2nd District

Yassin Terou, owner of Yassin’s Falafel House, said he was disappointed with the announcement.

He said the president seemed to have forgotten that the country was built by immigrants, the president’s ancestors were immigrants and the first lady is also an immigrant.

“Because of immigration we are great. Because we have been open to everyone, to new ideas, to new people, to new blood to this country, we are strong and we are different than other countries,” Terou said.

Terou said suspending immigration was also not a way to thank those who are on the front lines battling the virus. He said that you don’t know how many have loved ones back home waiting to move to America.

He also said the suspension is not the way to end the pandemic.

“If we already appreciate the immigrants, doctors, food industry employees, restaurant employees, who are risking their lives every day, this is not how we tell them thank you. If we’re really attacking the virus, let’s talk about the virus, because it has nothing to do with the job. And all this is because of the pandemic. It’s not for the immigrant. The immigrant doesn’t create this. They’ve been part of the solution,” Terou said.

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