US president says he will sign an order halting immigration to protect jobs in the country as the coronavirus spreads.

Donald Trump addresses the coronavirus response daily briefing at the White House in Washington, US, March 19, 2020 [Jonathan Ernst/ Reuters]
Donald Trump addresses the coronavirus response daily briefing at the White House in Washington, US, March 19, 2020 [Jonathan Ernst/ Reuters]

US President Donald Trump has said he will be signing an executive order to temporarily suspend immigration into the United States.

“In light of the attack from the Invisible Enemy, as well as the need to protect the jobs of our GREAT American Citizens, I will be signing an Executive Order to temporarily suspend immigration into the United States”, Trump said in a tweet late on Monday.

He offered no details as to what immigration programmes might be affected by the order. The White House did not immediately elaborate on Trump’s announcement.

The development is the latest in a string of moves cracking down on immigration as the coronavirus spreads in the US.

The US has by far the world’s largest number of confirmed coronavirus cases, with more than 42,000 deaths and 774,000 infections on Monday. 

In late March, Trump said the US would swiftly return any migrants who attempted to cross into the country from Mexico and Canada. He argued that migrants crossing the border threatened to worsen the US’s coronavirus outbreak. 

Al Jazeera’s John Hendren, reporting from the US city of Chicago, said the latest move was “fully in character” for Trump. 

“Remember, he imposed a ban on immigration from Muslim countries. That was overturned by a court and later modified. This is also president who has made ‘stopping illegal immigration’ a major theme of his presidency. He’s said he will build a wall to keep out illegal immigrants,” he said.

“But in this case, he’s stopping legal immigration and it will likely be challenged,” he continued, adding: “It also sends mixed message. He’s been saying all along that things are getting better, that the number of coronavirus cases is slowing, that the US is getting ready to open up for business, and now all of a sudden, he appears to be saying things are so dire that we need to halt all immigration.”

For weeks now, the US State Department has suspended almost all visa processing, including immigrant visas.

The US’s economy has come to a standstill because of the coronavirus and more than 22 million people have applied for unemployment benefits in the last month.

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