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65 Percent of Americans Support Temporarily Suspending Immigration During Coronavirus Outbreak

Many Americans don’t give President Donald Trump rave reviews for his response to the coronavirus outbreak, but a majority agree with his decision to suspend immigration, a new poll shows.

The Washington Post-University of Maryland poll found that 65 percent of people surveyed support temporarily blocking nearly all immigration into the United States during the outbreak. Thirty-four percent of those polled opposed the measure, and only 1 percent had “no opinion.”

Trump announced he was temporarily suspending immigration into the U.S. on April 21, the same day pollsters started conducting the survey. The next day, he signed an executive order intended to put Americans who lost their job because of the outbreak “first in line” for jobs as the economy reopens.

“We want to take care of our citizens first,” Trump said during a briefing. “We have to.”

The president’s executive order affects those seeking permanent residency in the United States and will be in place for 60 days. But Trump said during the briefing he may extend or modify the order.

Customs officers near Lansdowne, Ontario, stand beside a sign saying that the U.S.-Canada border is closed on March 22. Most Americans support temporarily suspending immigration to the United States during the coronavirus outbreak, according to a new poll. Lars Hagberg/AFP/Getty

Republicans were more likely than Democrats to support suspending immigration during the outbreak, 83 percent to 49 percent. The majority of independents, 67 percent, support the measure. At least six in 10 whites and nonwhites support suspending immigration.

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As of Tuesday, 988,469 people in America have tested positive for the new coronavirus that causes COVID-19, according to a Johns Hopkins University tracker. The largest outbreak worldwide is in the U.S., which has had 56,253 deaths, and officials warn that lifting restrictions could result in additional fatalities.

Trump had earlier made the economy a key platform of his re-election campaign and has been pushing to reopen businesses, even floating at one point the idea that America could be up and running by Easter. His advocacy for easing restrictions drew criticism from people who worried he would put the economy ahead of people’s lives. But the president tempered some of his remarks, called the Easter reopening an aspirational goal and put the responsibility for easing mitigation measures on governors.

Governors are all looking at reopening their states, acknowledging the toll the outbreak is taking on their economies. However, they’ve taken different approaches, including gradually lifting restrictions on a county-by-county basis and allowing local leaders to decide when to reopen.

Georgia Governor Brian Kemp faced heavy criticism, including from Trump, for allowing gyms, spas and salons to reopen before meeting the “gating” criteria put forth by the White House Coronavirus Task Force. Other governors, such as Michigan’s Gretchen Whitmer, have been the subject of protests because they have not lifted stay-at-home orders.

Overall, though, Americans say their state leaders have done a better job responding to the outbreak than Trump, according to the poll. Of the 1,008 adults surveyed, 47 percent labeled Trump’s response “excellent” or “good,” compared with the 77 percent that said the same about their governor’s response. (The poll has a margin of error of plus or minus 3.5 percentage points.)

In an effort to curb the spread of the outbreak, states closed nonessential businesses and limited restaurants to takeout and delivery services. Although the mitigation measures have helped flatten the curve and reduce deaths, the restrictions left millions of people without work.

More than 4.4 million people filed for unemployment last week, according to the Department of Labor. An estimated 22 million people have lost their jobs, and with mitigation measures being extended, it’s possible some businesses will have to shutter permanently.

In announcing the immigration suspension, Trump said it would be “wrong and unjust” for Americans who were laid off because of the outbreak to be replaced with “new immigrant labor flown in from abroad.”

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