ANALYSIS - Virus-Induced Freeze On Immigration, Refugee Flow Could Harm US Economy In Long Run

WASHINGTON (Pakistan Point News / Sputnik - 28th March, 2020) The US government's effective freeze on immigration during the growing coronavirus pandemic could have long term negative ramifications for the economy, experts told Sputnik.

On Thursday, the United States became the world leader in coronavirus case count, surpassing China. On Friday, the US had registered more than 97,000 cases, according to Johns Hopkins University.

Travel from Europe, the United Kingdom, and Ireland has been virtually shut down and border crossings into the United States from Canada and Mexico have been heavily curtailed.

Earlier in March, the US government put all admission of refugees into the country on hold. That freeze is expected to last until April 6 at least and may be maintained longer.

US Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) has almost halted its efforts to locate and deport illegal immigrants about from criminal elements.

These moves have put all remaining immigration processes within the United States on hold, California State University Emeritus Professor of politics Beau Grosscup told Sputnik.

"Hearings have been put on hold, courts closed, deportation flights halted and admissions lowered, with greater testing at border of incoming refugees," Grosscup said. "The effect has put a further squeeze on the labor market."

Ironically, the suspension of operations will give temporary relief to many thousands of illegals who would otherwise have been targeted, Grosscup noted.

"The fact the ICE has suspended most of its enforcement operations (a good thing) reflects the dangers they associate with the virus not out of any sympathy to the undocumented and their families," he said.

A March 19 internal Homeland Security document leaked to "The Nation" political magazine indicates that nine US Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) detainees are now under isolation for 'medical' reasons, Grosscup recalled.

"ICE's Health Services Corps is also monitoring 24 more detainees in 10 other ICE facilities. ...There is little doubt the isolation is in response to the Covid-19 pandemic," he said.

The crackdown is likely to last at least through the presidential election in November, Grosscup advised.

"I suspect Trump will try to keep immigration efforts on the front burner for political reasons as the United States heads to the election, but resources will be cut and with the new restrictions, unless the virus is gotten under control, admissions will by definition go down," he said.

The US crackdown denies allowing refugees who test positive for the virus from even applying for asylum, contravening the International Refugee Convention, Independent Institute Center on Peace and Liberty Director Ivan Eland pointed out.

"The Refugee Convention requires that the US protect vulnerable refugees, including those fearing for their lives," he said. "This [US policy] appears to violate the convention."

As the epidemic spreads, many asylum seekers will be prevented from even applying, Eland noted.

"So the number of those applying and, as a result, those given asylum could decline dramatically," he pointed out.