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Cornell University Human Rights Law Prof. Suspects Other Motives Behind Trump's Immigration Order

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A Cornell University migration and human rights law professor says it appears that President Trump’s intention to more severely restrict immigration to the US is not based on public health or even economic concerns due to COVID-19.  

From what we know so far, the measure would apply to those seeking green cards and last 60 days.  Visiting Clinical Professor Ian Kysel says these so-called “emergency measures” still require transparency and justification.

"What we should be looking to for government here is using the tools at their disposal to protect human life, but doing it in a way that is related to those objectives of protecting public health.  When you start mixing these different objectives, it really starts to raise questions about what the goals are here."

Because, Kysel says, the administration has already stopped overseas processing of visas, paused the refugee resettlement program, and invoked public health authority to prevent asylum seekers from crossing the borders.

"The question now is really what will this affect, and what's the goal here.  Is the goal to telegraph a message about migrants?  Then we start to think about other rights:  Rights to be free from discrimination, obligations on the government to stamp out xenophobia.  All of it ends up looking a bit like political theater."

Kysel says the president’s order will likely be challenged in court, and could be a factor in diplomatic discussions in the weeks and months ahead.

"Around the world, governments will come back to working together, and hopefully this will lead to some really deep thinking about how we can create new rules that prepare for the next pandemic response, and don't lead to the blanket or knee jerk actions that don't seem to be indicated by public health authorities in the ways that we've seen them and just aren't effective at protecting human life."

Kysel says orders like this continue to demonstrate that the Trump administration is inclined to scapegoat migrants to score political points. 

John Smith has been waking up WAER listeners for a long time as our Local Co-Host of Morning Edition with timely news and information, working alongside student Sportscasters from the Newhouse School.
Scott Willis covers politics, local government, transportation, and arts and culture for WAER. He came to Syracuse from Detroit in 2001, where he began his career in radio as an intern and freelance reporter. Scott is honored and privileged to bring the day’s news and in-depth feature reporting to WAER’s dedicated and generous listeners. You can find him on twitter @swillisWAER and email him at