According to Channels TV, President Donald Trump said Monday that he would temporarily suspend immigration to the United States because of the coronavirus pandemic, despite the US already being the worst-hit country in the world.
Trump referred to the “Invisible Enemy,” a phrase he has used to describe the virus that has killed more than 42,000 people in the US, which has more than 766,660 infections.
“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!” he tweeted Monday night.
The State Department issued around 462,000 immigrant visas in the 2019 fiscal year, while US Citizens and Immigration Services granted permanent residence to nearly 577,000 individuals.
Trump said the move would also protect American jobs, although the state-imposed lockdowns to slow the virus have already left 22 million people in the US out of work.
His tweet gave no further details about what the measure would entail, how it would be implemented or how long it would be in place.
Trump could sign an executive order as soon as Tuesday, The Washington Post reported, citing two White House officials.
The real estate tycoon campaigned for office on a platform of immigration skepticism and has made policies restricting immigration central to his presidency.
Criticising the ban, California Democratic Senator Kamala Harris said Trump was using the coronavirus outbreak to push his anti-immigrant stance.
“Trump failed to take this crisis seriously from day 1,” she tweeted.
“The abandonment of his role as president has cost lives. And now, he’s shamelessly politicizing this pandemic to double down on his anti-immigrant agenda.”
Trump has touted his move to restrict travel from China over the coronavirus in January after it emerged there late last year, and he halted travel from much of Europe in mid-March as the virus spread there.