The Trump administration may also be taking advantage of coronavirus to prevent undocumented immigrants from filing asylum cases.
The Trump administration has extended the closure of the United States’ land borders with Canada and Mexico for at least another month.
According to The Texas Tribune, Department of Homeland Security Acting Secretary Chad Wolf made the announcement earlier this week. In a statement, Wolf said the nation’s northern and southern borders will remain closed to non-essential travel until at least June 22.
Non-essential travel, in the context of the order, includes “individuals traveling for tourism purposes” such as “sightseeing, recreation, gambling, or attending cultural event[s].”
In an entry in the Federal Register, the Trump administration said the prohibitions are vital to curbing the spread of coronavirus—both into and out of the United States.
“Given the outbreak and continued transmission and spread of COIVD-19 within the United States and globally, the Secretary has determined that the risk of continued transmission and spread of COVID-19 between the United States and Mexico poses an ongoing ‘specific threat to human life or national interests,’” the entry said.
Commercial trade and business-related travel will be exempted from Homeland Security’s order.
CNN notes Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau had already planned to extend the U.S.-Canada border’s closure, regardless of the Trump administration’s sentiment.
“It was the right thing to further extend by 30 days our closure of the Canada, U.S. border to travelers other than essential services and goods, but we will continue to watch carefully what’s happening elsewhere in the world around us as we make decisions on next steps,” Trudeau said during a press conference.
Trudeau said that, when the border does eventually open to non-essential traffic, Canada may implement strict screening measures for U.S. nationals, including mandatory healthy screenings and quarantine periods.
But the Trump administration’s broader set of orders, however, includes more worrisome provisions. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention published its own recommendation: an indefinite extension of the Trump administration’s Title 42 policy.
Under Title 42, any undocumented immigrant apprehended between ports of entry will be deported without getting the chance to plead for asylum.
Dr. Robert R. Redfield, the CDC’s current director, said Title 42 needs to be extended to ensure migrants do not bring coronavirus into the United States.
“At this critical juncture, it would be counterproductive to undermine ongoing public health efforts by relaxing restrictions on the introduction of covered aliens who pose a risk of further introducing COVID-19 into the United States,” Redfield wrote in his order.
Redfield said the policy will be reviewed every 30 days, although there is not, currently, a tentative end date.
Not surprisingly, civil rights advocates and administration critics have accused the federal government of manipulating the coronavirus crisis to further some of President Trump’s immigration objectives.
“The administration refuses to heed the advice of public health experts to protect immigrants, government employees, and the general public from sickness and death, including by releasing people from [Immigration and Customs Enforcement] and [Customs and Border Patrol] detention and suspending civil immigration enforcement,” said American Civil Liberties Union deputy director of immigration policy Andrea Flores. “Instead, the president is hellbent on exploiting a public health crisis to achieve his long-held goal of ending asylum at the border.”