I Sold My Soul to ‘Conservatism Inc.’ for a Tasty Martini

Before I get to the main event, let’s start with a bit of legal/policy housekeeping. In the last newsletter, I briefly discussed Trump’s tweeted promise to “temporarily suspend immigration into the United States.” I withheld judgment on the legality and prudence of Trump’s order until it was issued (tweets aren’t executive orders after all).

The order is now out, and I have thoughts. First, Trump did not suspend all immigration. The first operative paragraph suspends entry generally, but it also points to a series of nine exceptions—including exceptions for lawful permanent residents, spouses of citizens, children of citizens, members of the armed forces (and their spouses and children), and—crucially—health care workers who can perform essential ‘work combating COVID-19. There are catch-all provisions that also allow for case-by-case exceptions.

Second, Trump’s order is almost certainly legal. (I say “almost” only because nothing is truly certain in court.) It’s less vulnerable to challenge than his earlier travel ban, and it seems squarely within the statutory grant of authority of 8 U.S.C. Section 1182(f), which permits him to suspend immigration when he “finds that the entry of any aliens or of any class of aliens into the United States would be detrimental to the interests of the United States.”

Third, while a pandemic rages and American employment collapses, the order seems quite prudent—in both its scope and its exceptions. Necessary workers—and members of the American family—can still arrive. Now is not the time to increase the labor-market supply when the demand is so low, and the order contains a sunset clause (60 days). It’s a pause, not a halt, and for now, a pause is wise.

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