WASHINGTON — President Trump’s decision to suspend family-based immigration because of the coronavirus is the beginning of a broader strategy to reduce the flow of foreigners into the United States, Stephen Miller, the architect of President Trump’s immigration agenda, told a group of conservative allies on Thursday.
During a private conference call with the president’s supporters, Mr. Miller sought to reassure them of Mr. Trump’s commitment to their cause and urged them to publicly defend his executive order. He pledged that it was only a first step in the administration’s longer-term goal of shrinking legal immigration.
“The first and most important thing is to turn off the faucet of new immigrant labor — mission accomplished — with signing that executive order,” Mr. Miller said, according to an audio recording of the conference call obtained by The New York Times.
The executive order Mr. Trump signed this week bars people from receiving green cards for 60 days, a move that immigration advocates condemned. But it does nothing to limit visa programs that bring tens of thousands of workers to the United States, infuriating groups that call for deep reductions in the number of foreign citizens entering the country.
Mr. Miller said that further restrictions on programs for foreign workers were likely.
“In terms of dealing with some of these seasonal flows of guest workers and developing a strategy for that, that’s what the president directed us to do,” he said. The existence of the tape was first reported by The Washington Post.
During the 2016 campaign, Mr. Trump seized on fear of immigrants as a powerful political issue, and after winning the election, he aggressively pushed to shut down illegal crossings by demanding a “big, beautiful wall” between the United States and Mexico. In summer 2018, he separated migrant parents from their children when they crossed the border illegally, and sent the American military to fortify the border with Mexico.
But immigration hard-liners have repeatedly urged the president to do more to permanently reduce the number of foreigners allowed to enter legally. Mr. Miller has made that a top priority in the last several years, pushing through regulatory changes aimed at shrinking the opportunities for foreigners to live and work in the United States.