My New Atlantic Article on Trump's Coronavirus Immigration Bans

The article explains why these policies, which made made America more closed to immigration than at any previous time in history, are both harmful and a dangerous executive power grab.


The Atlantic has just published my new article on Trump's coronavirus immigration restrictions, which have made America more closed to immigrants than at any previous time in history. Here is an excerpt from the beginning:

On Monday, President Donald Trump extended a near-total ban that he had first announced in April on entry into the United States by immigrants seeking "green cards" for permanent residency. This policy is the most sweeping ban on immigration in American history. Even during earlier crises, such as the Great Depression, the two world wars, and the horrific flu pandemic of 1918–19, the U.S. did not categorically ban the entry of virtually all migrants seeking to settle here permanently. The newly expanded version of the policy also severely restricts temporary work visas.

The official justifications for these policies are the prevention of the spread of the coronavirus pandemic and the protection of American workers from wage competition. Neither rationale can justify such a sweeping restriction on immigration. Even more troubling, the order is a large-scale executive-branch power grab that sets a dangerous precedent. It makes a mockery of conservative jurists' insistence that there are constitutional limits to the amount of authority Congress can delegate to the executive.

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  1. Now is not a time for your open-borders craziness, Ilya.

    1. If we are to remain a country, we have to have a moratorium on immigration until we can assimilate all the recent immigrants.

      1. Know-nothing types have been yelling this since the 1880s. It’s never been true, and isn’t true now.

        1. Except when it was true in 1932

          1. You mean when we started banning Jewish immigration from Nazi Germany?

            1. “Nazi Germany” didn’t exist in 1932. You have a bad sense of history.

              1. OK then, what happened in precisely 1932 that meant America could not handle accepting other cultures?

  2. It makes a mockery of conservative jurists’ insistence that there are constitutional limits to the amount of authority Congress can delegate to the executive.

    Not the first time. Conservatives only favor limits on executive power when a Democrat is in the White House.

    1. In this, as in many other things, Democrats and Republicans share a common attitude. Both parties want to restrict the power of the executive branch when their party does not hold the office.
      Bi-partisan efforts, like the Presidential Debate Committee, also share a common world view – in that case both Democrats and Republicans agree that no third party candidate should have a platform.
      See – who said we are so far apart?

      1. I agree that both parties like executive power when they hold the White House.

        It’s kind of like federalism – an argument of convenience.

  3. “Neither rationale can justify such a sweeping restriction on immigration.” 21 million unemployed Americans and 2.5 million sick Americans are an unjustifiable “rationale”. It’s good to be reminded just how depraved and inhuman some people can be.

    1. Except that study after study says that immigration is good for our economy. We should be doing what we can to help our economy and not let nationalistic politics hamper that.

      1. Not when you have 21,000,000 unemployed Americans — probably closer to 40,000,000.

        1. Yes, especially now. We need to just start the economy, not slow it down. A rising tide lifts all boats.

          1. Put down the chamber of commerce corporate koolaid and go back to supply and demand 101.

          2. If you concentrate on reopening and ignore public health, you get neither.

  4. If we can’t restrict immigration during a time of pandemic and sky high unemployment, then when can we? Never?

    I understand the argument about giving too much power to the executive, but then push Congress to change that.

  5. While Prof. Volokh muses about the ostensible loneliness of the right-wing academic, Prof. Somin demonstrates that nothing is quite so unwanted as libertarian content at a movement conservative blog.

    1. Ostensibly libertarian content; I was an activist in the LP starting in the 70’s, within a year or so of the party being founded. And it wasn’t until recently that ‘libertarians’ threw any concern about path dependence out the window, and started advocating for open borders before we had a watchman state that wouldn’t attract parasites.

      I can understand that Ilya, having personally benefited from immigration, is really hot on the subject. But the objections to open borders that he so casually rejects are quite serious. Immigration is actually making the US less of a libertarian country, and has been for some time.

      1. It’s never out of order for a meeting of Libertarians For Authoritarian, Bigoted, Cruel Immigration Policies And Practices to be convened at the site or this blog.

        1. Can’t have open borders with a welfare state. End that first, along with the insane birthright citizenship that no other country in the world has, /then/ we’ll talk about open borders. Until then, that’s a big nope.

          1. Oops, double-tapped that one.

    2. Can’t have open borders with a welfare state. End that first, along with the insane birthright citizenship that no other country in the world has, /then/ we’ll talk about open borders. Until then, that’s a big nope.

      1. Your proposed timetable seems worthless.

        See you in November, then again in January, bigots.

  6. “which have made America more closed to immigrants than at any previous time in history. Here is an excerpt from the beginning”

    So a sense of history here is needed. We’ve seen levels of unemployment higher than any levels since the Great Depression. What happened with immigration during the Great Depression?

    Well, it was far more severe than it is today. European visas sank by 60%. Green Cards (New legal perminant residents) fell dramatically, to a total of just 23,068 new residents in 1933 (By comparison it was 306,000 in 1928, 1.2 million in 1933, or 1.2 million in 2016). States put up barriers to prevent internal migration (sound familiar). Hoover instituted immigration policies banning anyone likely to become a public charge. And that doesn’t even count what happened to the Mexicans…

    So…a sense of history here is needed.

    1. Hmmm. What else was happening in the 1930s that might be an obfuscating factor? And how did that end up turning out?

      1. Well, the Yankees won the World Series, so that should’ve increased immigration. But that’s not super-relevant, even if we are talking about the Great Depression, especially the early years.

    2. 3.7 Million students graduated from high school this spring, and if you figure the number going into college next fall equals the number that came out this spring, it means we have 3.7 Million people attempting to enter the workforce who aren’t listed as “unemployed.”

      So we have more unemployed NOW than in the depression.

      1. Ed, that’s because the population grew.

        1. It’s a higher percentage as well.

          1. No, Ed, quit making things up – why are you so uniquely shameless?

            The unemployent rate (~15%) is not higher than in the Great Depression (~25%)

  7. “The Covid-19 pandemic is an overblown farce and a plot to remove Trump from office – but we’ll still use it as a fig leaf justification for clamping down on all immigration.”

    1. The plot to remove Trump from office involves Americans earning undergraduate and advanced degrees; living in modern, successful, accomplished communities; becoming more likely to choose reason over religion; and renouncing old-timey intolerance, ignorance, and backwardness.

      It seems to be working.

    2. You have a good point there. Coronavirus has done more damage to people’s physical and mental health by way of the economic wrecking ball to the working class and small businesses, which causes all manner of deleterious health effects, than by way of disease symptoms.

      They ought to stick to the real and proper rationale as Trump did recently.

      1. The second sentence of that proclamation states that the shutdown measures were in fact medically necessary. Directly contradicting your second sentence. So it’s exactly as I said, argue one way to shut down immigration, argue the other way to end restrictions.

    3. Covid-19 can be a scam while the tyrannical actions taken under the guise of the scam could also have caused real human suffering.

      1. Like massive restrictions on legal immigration, for instance.

  8. This economy has been given Covid(TM) and put into one of Cuomo’s assisted dying homes. Why are we still talking as if there isn’t a near corpse in the room?

    The Medical Examiner will claim pandemic as cause of death and not its comorbidities of overspending to the point of bankruptcy, mismanagement, banking malfeasance, huge corporate welfare and bail-outs, a globalist agenda, endless war, off-the-books mega projects, and outright theft. No wonder our economy caught Covid (TM)- its demise is more tragic this way and not the fault of anyone.

    This time next year we should be ecstatic were we still a sufficiently solvent and sovereign nation able to debate the philosophical merits and legalities of more open immigration policy, and, too, the real-life consequences of any given immigration policy at specific points in time.

    It has to be said, because it’s true, the US has become a far greater nation for its steady stream of legal immigrants seeking freedom and opportunity. Our illegal residents who’ve been here for a stipulated number of years and who are otherwise law-abiding should also stay, since the time to send them “home” has come and gone. This is their home, now.

    Meanwhile, though, since the official story is pandemic and that the US is in dire straits and suffering from quarantines, “flooded” hospitals, mask fatigue, and closing businesses, how can easy immigration not be a casualty for the moment?

  9. ‘Cause we did the 1918 Pandemic so well, no need to do better?

  10. One just weeps for the FAANG companies that just have to make due with….hiring Americans this year. Oh, the horror. It is a very pragmatic move to address an urgent national problem: record high unemployment.

    1. Why not hire the people they wish to hire, by sending the work elsewhere?

    2. Hmm, I wonder if this teleconferencing thing works across borders? The FAANG companies already hire lots of people in other countries; this will just result in them doing even more so when people who would otherwise move to the US to be productive contributors to the economy work from some other place instead.

  11. One has to be a special type of person to be published both here and in the Atlantic.

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