Trump to sign virus immigration order Wednesday

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Washington (AFP)

President Donald Trump confirmed he would sign Wednesday an order partially blocking immigration to the United States, in a move he argues would protect workers from the economic fallout of the coronavirus pandemic.

Immigration is a key issue for Trump's conservative base, which he is keen to energize ahead of the November election.

"I will be signing my Executive Order prohibiting immigration into our Country today," he said in a tweet.

The president said on Tuesday that he would stop the issuing of green cards -- permanent residency permits -- for 60 days, but would exempt temporary workers such as seasonal farm laborers.

"It will help put unemployed Americans first in line for jobs as America reopens," he said Tuesday. "It would be wrong and unjust for Americans to be replaced with immigrant labor flown in from abroad."

The US -- with 45,000 deaths and more than 825,000 coronavirus infections -- is the world's hardest-hit country, and healthcare infrastructure in major hotspots such as New York has struggled to cope.

About 22 million Americans have lost their jobs since the outbreak forced a global economic shutdown.

The executive order on immigration will likely spark court action to reverse it, and has raised hackles among Trump's Democratic opponents.

Texas lawmaker Joaquin Castro slammed what he called "an attempt to divert attention away from Trump's failure to stop the spread of the coronavirus and save lives."

The US Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) granted lawful permanent residence to around 577,000 individuals in 2019.