US President Donald Trump on Tuesday said he would halt immigration to the US for 60 days, saying it was to protect the American jobs during the coronavirus pandemic.
“I will be issuing a temporary suspension of immigration into the United States,” Mr Trump said during briefing on Tuesday.
“By pausing, we’ll help put unemployed Americans first in line for jobs. It would be wrong to be replacing them with new immigrant labour flown in from abroad.”
The move will block green card recipients from moving to the US but will allow temporary workers to arrive.
Mr Trump first made the announcement late on Monday night, when he said he would sign an executive order temporarily closing the US to people trying to immigrate.
The US is struggling to contain the world’s most severe coronavirus outbreak.
“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,” Mr Trump said on Twitter.
The Trump administration has made several attempts to clamp down on immigration during the pandemic.
The government has taken steps to bar asylum seekers and undocumented migrants from entering the US.
The Universal Declaration of Human Rights guarantees the right to seek asylum but rights advocates are concerned Mr Trump is using the coronavirus crisis to pursue anti-immigration policies.
“The Trump administration appears to be weaponising fears over Covid-19 to step up its anti-immigrant agenda by eviscerating the right to seek asylum,” said Clara Long, a senior US researcher at Human Rights Watch.
“Instead of whipping up xenophobia and denying rights, the Trump administration should be taking rational, prudent steps to ensure the health of citizens and non-citizens alike.”
Reducing immigration was one of Mr Trump’s core campaign pledges before taking office in 2016.
Last month, a report in The New York Times revealed a plan by the Trump administration to immediately return all asylum seekers from Mexico without any examination of their claims.
The plan would allow US border officials to return those coming in through legal ports of entry without any due process.
The administration is planning to reopen parts of the country in phases, even as it continues to battle Covid-19.
The approach is meant to revive the economy by providing recommendations for state governors to reduce restrictions and reopen in three stages if certain criteria were met.
There are 792,913 confirmed coronavirus cases in the US and 42,517 have died from the disease.