Tag: Donald Trump

US Immigration groups slam decision to suspend H-1B, H-2B, H-4, J-1, and L-1 visas till December 31, 2020

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Photo=ACLU

By Peoples Dispatch

The decision of the US government to suspend a variety of immigration visas until the end of the year has been widely criticized by immigration rights organizations. President Donald Trump signed an executive order on June 22, Monday. The move effectively extends a previous 60-day visa ban imposed by the administration in April due to the novel coronavirus pandemic.

The executive order signed on Monday suspends any new applications for H-1B, H-2B, H-4, J-1, and L-1 visas until December 31, 2020, with a few exceptions under H-2B for those working in agriculture and seafood processing industries. Representatives from the administration have told the media that close to 525,000 jobs in the US will be cleared up for US citizens with the move.

The US is currently facing its biggest unemployment crisis since the Great Depression. Over 15 million workers have suffered job loss or work loss since February, and the unemployment rate is estimated to be anywhere between 13% to 17%. Of these, 6.3 million are deemed to have exited the labor market.

Officials in the Trump administration have been pushing for a blanket ban on immigration, claiming that it will prevent foreign competition in the labor market, and have suggested this as a means to deal with the massive job losses.

The move has been strongly opposed by the tech industry bosses, who depend on a foreign pool of professionals for much of their postings. The order will also put thousands of researchers and foreign students in a lurch, especially those under the study-abroad and work-abroad programs.

The order allows those with valid visas to continue to be in the US. However, immigration lawyers have pointed out the lack of clarity in the order, with insufficient details provided for those workers who are stranded abroad and whose visas are set to expire.

The National Immigration Forum has decried the order as an attempt to divide communities. “Extending and expanding a ban on immigrants does not address the challenges our nation faces as we begin the long recovery from COVID-19,” said Ali Noorani, president and CEO of the forum, in a statement released on Monday.

“Advancing the false narrative that immigrants are competitors only serves to undermine the trust and unity needed to recover quickly and effectively from the pandemic and its economic effects,” Noorani added.

The world agreed to a coronavirus inquiry. Just when and how, though, are still in dispute

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By Adam Kamradt-Scott*

Only once before has the World Health Organisation held its annual World Health Assembly during a pandemic. The last time it happened, in 2009, the influenza pandemic was only in its first weeks – with far fewer deaths than the world has seen this year.

And never before has the meeting of world leaders, health diplomats, and public health experts been held entirely virtually over a condensed two days instead of the normal eight-to-nine-day affair.

As expected, the assembly proved to be a high stakes game of bare-knuckled diplomacy – with a victory (of sorts) for the western countries that had been advocating for an independent inquiry into the origins of the coronavirus pandemic.

China had pushed back hard against such an inquiry, first proposed by Australia last month, but eventually agreed after other countries signed on.

Even though the resolution was adopted, there are still many unanswered questions about what happens next, specifically, when and how an investigation will actually occur.

Harsh critiques from the US

While country after country praised the WHO for its efforts to contain the COVID-19 virus, US Health Secretary Alex Azar predictably accused the global health body of mishandling the crisis.

In a Trumpian-esque attempt at re-writing history, Azar even went so far as to suggest the WHO failed to alert countries early enough to the COVID-19 threat, despite the fact the organization issued its first warnings on January 4.

China, meanwhile, quickly sensed it had lost the diplomatic battle to prevent an inquiry into the origins of the virus after more than 100 countries supported a draft resolution put forth by Australia and its European and African allies.

President Xi Jinping agreed China would support a WHO-led investigation, but there were two major stipulations – that it happens after the pandemic was over and would focus on more than just looking at China’s actions.

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Chinese President Xi addressing the World Health Assembly in Geneva. Photo: WHO Live

Concerns were also voiced during the gathering about the need for ensuring any COVID-19 vaccine would be made available freely and widely, as opposed to suggested scenarios in which Western countries might gain priority access.

World leaders from UN Secretary-General António Guterres to French President Emmanuel Macron stressed the need for any vaccine to be made widely available as a global public good, and health ministers outlined various efforts to support vital research and development into a vaccine.

So what happens now?

China made it clear it will only support an investigation into the origins of the virus after the pandemic has ended. That could be years away, and the longer it takes, the less likely it will be the source will be accurately identified.

China has also insisted the investigation must be led by the WHO. It could be conducted under the auspices of WHO, but if it is led by WHO staff, this is unlikely to sit well with other governments such as Australia and the United States. Both have argued for an independent inquiry.

Investigations into what went wrong during health crises have occurred before.

In 2009, three independent probes were conducted after the WHO was accused of being unduly influenced by an advisory committee into declaring H1N1 “swine flu” a pandemic. And a series of investigations was also launched after the 2014 West African Ebola outbreak, during which the WHO was criticized for being too slow to declare an emergency.

In each instance, the members of the investigation teams were appointed by WHO after being recommended by governments and were made up of prominent, independent public health experts and former WHO staff. Notably, these inquiries were also launched before the crises had abated.

These previous investigations focused exclusively on the WHO’s role in responding to the crises and the functioning of the International Health Regulations – a framework that was significantly revised in 2005 to guide government and WHO behavior during disease outbreaks.

China has insisted, however, the COVID-19 investigation be “comprehensive”, which has been interpreted to mean it must look not only at China’s actions but also how other governments responded to the WHO’s warnings.

This is unlikely to be well received by a number of governments, such as the US, which traditionally view such matters as internal and sovereign.

Ultimately though, an investigation will require China’s cooperation, so it’s likely to hold some sway over how, when, and who conducts the probe.

WHO Director-General Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus thus faces a difficult task ahead in trying to reconcile the geopolitical tensions between the world’s two superpowers, China and the United States.

Immediate next steps

While the details of an investigation are being finalized, the focus must return to containing COVID-19.

To date, countries have understandably prioritized halting the spread of the coronavirus within their borders to save the lives of their citizens. But as Guterres said at the WHA, the virus will continue to pose a threat to every country unless the international community stands together.

For that to occur, more attention has to be given to supporting low-income countries to contain the virus.

And resources need to be mobilized and deployed. Now.

Research on a vaccine, diagnostics, and treatments must also continue. Realizing the call to ensure the vaccine is freely available to everyone will be critical to ending the pandemic.

While scientific research is underway, governments must also increase their manufacturing capacity and address the legal issues around indemnity and liability, which unhelpfully delayed deployment of the H1N1 influenza pandemic vaccine throughout 2009 and 2010.

For this to occur, we have to heal, or at least put aside, the harmful politics that have prevented effective multilateral cooperation to date. It will be a challenge, but one we must overcome.

*Adam Kamradt-Scott receives funding from the Australian Research Council to investigate military assistance during health emergencies, and from the Canadian Institute for Health Research on the travel and trade restrictions during the COVID-19 pandemic. He is a director of the Global Health Security Network, and co-convenor of the Global Health Security conferences.

Source: The Conversation, Under Creative Commons Licence.May 20, 2020.