The Washington PostDemocracy Dies in Darkness

Power Up: Americans support immigration pause even as they ding Trump's coronavirus response


with Brent D. Griffiths

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The Policies

AND THE POLLING IS IN: A majority of Americans back a temporary halt to nearly all immigration into the United States during the coronavirus outbreak, even as they ding President Trump's handling of the crisis, according to a Washington Post-University of Maryland poll out this morning

The poll, which began after Trump's April 20 announcement he planned to pause immigration to stop the spread of the virus and protect jobs for Americans but before the details became public two days later, found that 65 percent of Americans support a temporary suspension. Thirty-four percent of Americans were opposed. 

The executive order Trump ultimately signed was narrower than his initial announcement of a blanket suspension during the pandemic. The order restricts several categories of immigrants who are currently outside the U.S. and don't already have a valid visa from entering the country for 60 days.

The idea is supported by Americans who the poll also shows are broadly concerned about becoming infected or seriously ill by the virus. Our colleagues Dan Balz and Scott Clement have the details:

  • The party differences: 83 percent of Republicans and 67 percent of independents said they supported a temporary block on immigration. 
  • Democrats divided: The poll shows 49 percent support a block and 49 percent oppose. 
  • Broad support across demographics: At least 6 in 10 whites and nonwhites, men and women, and older and younger adults also expressed support for a suspension.

“One of the most surprising results is that majorities of 18-29 year olds, who tend to be more open to immigration and have a more global perspective, support the proposal to block immigration,” Michael Hanmer, a professor of government and politics at the University of Maryland, who co-directed the survey, told Dan and Scott. “One way for people to deal with the reality that so many scientific and policy questions have yet to be answered is to look to concrete solutions.” 

The findings are a sharp departure from past support for legal immigration, which generally draws strong support among Democrats, Republicans, and independents. This indicates that Americans would be far less likely to back a permanent ban once the pandemic is contained. 

Not just temporary?: However, as our colleagues Nick Miroff and Josh Dawsey reported last week, Trump's senior policy adviser Stephen Miller privately told White House supporters that the president's new executive order “will usher in the kind of broader long-term changes to American society he has advocated for years.” 

  • “Miller told the group that subsequent measures were under consideration that would restrict guest worker programs, but the ‘the most important thing is to turn off the faucet of new immigrant labor,’ he said, according to a recording obtained by The Washington Post. Miller indicated that the strategy is part of a long-term vision and not seen only as a stopgap,” per Nick and Josh.
  • “Although Trump described his order this week as a temporary ‘pause,’ he also said it is an open-ended move that will remain in place until he decides the U.S. labor market has sufficiently improved once the coronavirus crisis subsides,” they write. "[Trump] said he will reevaluate it after 60 days and might extend the immigration restrictions to help Americans find jobs when states reopen their economies.” 

TRUMP HIMSELF DOES NOT HAVE SUCH BROAD SUPPORT: The poll also shows Americans negatively view the president's handling of the crisis that has killed over 55,000 Americans. 

  • “The public continues to have a somewhat negative view of Trump’s handling of the crisis, with 52 percent saying that the way he’s dealt with it is either “not so good” or “poor,” and 47 percent saying that the job he has done is “excellent” or “good,'" per Scott and Dan.
  • “Partisan differences are especially sharp in the ratings of the president, with 9 in 10 Republicans saying he’s doing a good or excellent job compared with less than 2 in 10 Democrats. Independents rate him 54 percent negative and 45 percent positive. Among all registered voters, his ratings are 54 percent negative and 45 percent positive.”
  • Gender gap alert:Men rate Trump positively by eight points, while women rate him negatively by a 17-point margin, Scott and Dan report. 
  • Important note on timing: “This week’s survey was taken Tuesday through Sunday, overlapping Trump’s suggestion on Thursday that it would be worth exploring whether injecting disinfectant into people’s bodies could combat the virus. That remark prompted makers of disinfectants and public health units to warn people against doing so.” 
  • Trump's White House and unofficial advisers have attempted “to convince President Trump that speaking to the public about the health and medical implications of the virus is potentially too damaging to be worth the risk,” according to our colleague Ashley Parker. 

GOVERNORS GET HIGH MARKS: Seventy-seven percent of Americans rate their governor's response to the coronavirus pandemic as good or excellent — that's even higher than the 72 percent approval rating they received a week ago.  

  • And the support is bipartisan: “In contrast to ratings of the president, governors enjoy support across the partisan divide, with 79 percent of Democrats, 74 percent of Republicans and 78 percent of independents saying their governors are doing an excellent or good job. Overall, however, Republicans give Trump higher ratings than they offer their governors,” per Scott and Dan. 

Proceed with caution: Although some governors have started to relax shelter-at-home orders, the poll finds there is still overwhelming bipartisan support for strict limitations on the size of public gatherings and state-imposed restrictions on businesses. 

Seven in 10 Democrats and 6 in 10 Republicans find the current restrictive measures on business appropriate. And 64 percent of Americans support limits the size of public gatherings to no more than 10 people.

  • “Even in the dozen states that have begun to loosen restrictions or that had less restrictive orders in place, a majority of residents support their state’s limitations, with 59 percent calling them appropriate, 18 percent saying they are too restrictive and 22 percent calling them not restrictive enough — the last figure being eight points higher than in the states with more stringent orders in place,” Scott and Dan report.

New normal: “These findings suggest that even as states begin to reopen their economies on a gradual basis, many citizens could be cautious about resuming activity at the level that existed before the pandemic took hold and people were ordered or asked to stay at home as much as possible,” our colleagues write.  

  • What's next: “The White House is finalizing expanded guidelines to allow the phased reopening of schools and camps, child-care programs, certain workplaces, houses of worship, restaurants and mass transit, according to documents under review by administration officials,” scooped our colleagues Lena Sun and Josh Dawsey. 
  • “The guidelines have sparked sharp debates within the administration between public health experts and other officials who fear the guidelines could restrict worship services, damage the profitability of restaurants and upend daily life in a way they deem unnecessary.” 

At The White House

INTEL BRIEFINGS REPEATEDLY WARNED TRUMP ABOUT THE VIRUS: “U.S. intelligence agencies issued warnings about the novel coronavirus in more than a dozen classified briefings prepared for [Trump] in January and February, months during which he continued to play down the threat, according to current and former U.S. officials,” Greg Miller and Ellen Nakashima report.

Concerns about the virus were included for weeks in the President's Daily Brief (PDB): “… A sensitive report that is produced before dawn each day and designed to call the president’s attention to the most significant global developments and security threats,” our colleagues write. The reports “traced the virus’s spread around the globe, made clear that China was suppressing information about the contagion’s transmissibility and lethal toll, and raised the prospect of dire political and economic consequences.”

  • But the alarms apparently failed to register with the president: “[Trump] routinely skips reading the PDB and has at times shown little patience for even the oral summary he takes two or three times per week, according to the officials, who spoke on the condition of anonymity to discuss classified material," our colleagues write.

Expect future fights over making these reports public: The Bush White House, in response to a probe by the 9/11 Commission, released part of a PBD George W. Bush received on Aug. 6, 2001. The one-and-a-half-page section was titled “Bin Laden Determined to Strike in U.S.” Bush's decision to declassify that portion made him the first sitting president to release even part of the PBD.

  • Multiple Democratic lawmakers have called for something similar to the commission to review the administration's response to the pandemic.

TRUMP ANNOUNCES ‘BLUEPRINT’ FOR INCREASING TESTING: The blueprint “leaves the onus on states to develop their own plans and rapid-response programs,” according to our colleagues Mike DeBonis, Chris Mooney and Juliet Eilperin. “A White House document said the federal role would include ‘strategic direction and technical assistance,’ as well as the ability to ‘align laboratory testing supplies and capacity with existing and anticipated laboratory needs.’” The plan comes after criticism from governors and public health experts that the federal government has not provided sufficient help to the states to obtain vital supplies required for testing on a larger scale.  

  • While major retailers like CVS, Walgreens, Rite Aid, and Walmart joined Trump to announce that they've accelerated the rate of testing and the production of medical supplies, it still remains unclear how the plan will work and whether there is adequate lab capacity.
  • And “a previous high-profile public-private initiative announced by the president in March — partnering with companies to open up scores of testing sites on their properties across the country — has been slow to materialize,” per Mike, Chris and Juliet.
  • “Now there are big believers in testing -- and then there are some governors that don’t feel as strongly about it at all, you understand, that they feel much differently about it -- but we’re going with maximum testing because it’s something we’re very capable of doing but will be much more than doubled,” Trump told reporters. 
As deaths in the United States of covid-19 rise, some have started to question the official death count. But the death toll is most likely undercounted. (Video: The Washington Post)

Outside the Beltway

THE COVID DEATH TOLL MAY BE SIGNIFICANTLY HIGHER: “In the early weeks of the coronavirus epidemic, the United States recorded an estimated 15,400 excess deaths, nearly two times as many as were publicly attributed to covid-19 at the time, according to an analysis of federal data conducted for The Washington Post by a research team led by the Yale School of Public Health,” Emma Brown, Andrew Ba Tran, Beth Reinhard and Monica Ulmanu report.

What it means: “The analysis suggests that the deaths announced in the weeks leading up to April 4, based on reports from state public health departments, failed to capture the full impact of the pandemic,” our colleagues write. “The analysis also suggests that the death toll from the pandemic is significantly higher than has been reported, said Daniel Weinberger, a Yale professor of epidemiology and the leader of the research team.”

  • There are key caveats to understanding the data: “The excess deaths are not necessarily attributable directly to covid-19, the disease caused by the coronavirus. They could include people who died because of the epidemic but not from the disease, such as those who were afraid to seek medical treatment for unrelated illnesses, as well as some number of deaths that are part of the ordinary variation in the death rate. The count is also affected by increases or decreases in other categories of deaths, such as suicides, homicides and motor vehicle accidents.” 

On The Hill

MORE DETAILS, DISAGREEMENTS ABOUT THE NEXT PHASE: Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell said his top priority would be “strong protections from opportunistic lawsuits” for health-care workers and businesses. House Speaker Nancy Pelosi “said Congress might need to consider offering a guaranteed income to some Americans to help the country recover from the economic impact of the coronavirus pandemic,” Erica Werner and John Wagner report.

  • One thing they can agree on is holding votes: McConnell confirmed he will bring the Senate back into session on May 4. “House Majority Leader Steny H. Hoyer (D-Md.) told Democrats on a conference call that the House, too, would be reconvening May 4,” our colleagues write.

McConnell opened the door slightly to extending funding to states: But the majority leader made clear that such funds need to “go beyond simply sending out money” and that they would only address costs incurred from coronavirus responses, per our colleagues. Governors have previously bristled at the strict requirements in the Cares Act, which they say does not address their underlying budget shortfalls.  

  • It is also clear that the liability shield is at the top of McConnell's list: “Before we start sending additional money down to states and localities, I want to make sure we protect the people we’ve already sent assistance to who are going to be set up for an avalanche of lawsuits if we don’t act,” McConnell said in an interview with conservative radio host Guy Benson. The White House is also considering liability protections.

Pelosi advocated extending PPP: The speaker suggested the small business loan initiative, the Paycheck Protection Program, should be longer than just two months. “She also suggested the small-business program could be expanded to businesses with 1,000 employees instead of the current 500.” As for McConnell's push, according to spokesman Drew Hammill, she has “no interest” in a liability shield.

  • What a guaranteed pay program would look like: “ … A plan by Rep. Pramila Jayapal (D-Wash.), co-chair of the Progressive Caucus, would create a three-month federal guarantee for 100 percent of worker salaries of up to $100,000. Pelosi’s comments suggested she was open to such an approach,” our colleagues write.

The Campaign

TRUMP ALLIES PUSH NEW CLAIMS ABOUT READE'S ALLEGATIONS: “Some allies of [Trump] pointed to new claims by a woman who said she was told about sexual assault allegations against Joe Biden decades ago, renewing attention to questions about the past behavior of the presumptive Democratic presidential nominee,” Matt Viser reports.

  • More details: “Lynda LaCasse, who was one of Reade’s neighbors in California, where Reade moved after working for Biden, said in an interview with Business Insider published Monday that Reade told her in the mid-1990s that Biden had ‘put his hand up her skirt and he put his fingers inside her,’" our colleague write. “Lorraine Sanchez, a former colleague of Reade’s in the office of a California state senator, also told the news outlet that Reade told her in the mid-1990s that she ‘had been sexually harassed by her former boss while she was in DC and as a result of her voicing her concerns to her supervisors, she was let go, fired.’ Sanchez did not recall whether Reade mentioned Biden specifically, or whether she provided further details about the allegation.”
  • Biden has not commented on the new allegations: “But his campaign has denied them and pointed to his record on women’s rights and promotion of women in his offices,” our colleague writes.
President Trump on April 27 said he “never even thought of changing the date” of the 2020 presidential election. (Video: The Washington Post)

BIDEN HOLDS LEAD OVER TRUMP: A new USA Today/Suffolk University Poll shows the former vice president leading Trump nationwide by 6 percentage points, 44 percent to 38 percent, a shift from Trump's 3-point lead in the survey as he was being impeached by the House in December. In a contest without a third-party contender, Biden's margin jumps to 10 points, 50 percent to 40 percent,” USA Today's Susan Page reports. Remember as always: Take polling numbers cautiously

New York cancelled its June 23 presidential primary: Sen. Bernie Sanders’s campaign excoriated New York election officials over the decision, Sean Sullivan reports.

  • Why it matters to Sanders: “Although Sanders (I-Vt.) has suspended his campaign and endorsed former vice president Joe Biden, he has expressed a desire to remain on ballots in states with upcoming nominating contests. He hopes to continue amassing delegates to the party’s national convention to gain influence over the platform and other decisions,” our colleague writes.

In the Media


There are nine symptoms of the coronavirus that show up consistently: The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention added six symptoms to its list, Angela Fritz, Michael Brice-Saddler and Maura Judkis report.

The symptoms, which the CDC reports could appear two to 14 days after exposure to the virus, are:

  • Chills
  • Repeated shaking with chills
  • Muscle pain
  • Headache
  • Sore throat
  • New loss of taste or smell

Previously, the CDC listed just three known symptoms: shortness of breath, cough and fever.