The Trump administration announced an extension Tuesday of two border policies enacted months ago to stem the spread of the coronavirus, including an order that immigrant rights and civil liberties groups criticize as a backhanded way to achieve the president’s goal of turning away asylum seekers without due process.
Chad Wolf, the acting secretary of the Department of Homeland Security, announced that the southern and northern borders with Mexico and Canada will remain closed to nonessential travel until June 22. Nonessential travel, according to the post in the federal register, includes “individuals traveling for tourism purposes” like “sightseeing, recreation, gambling or attending cultural event.”
“Given the outbreak and continued transmission and spread of COVID-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,'" says the text posted in the federal register.
Commercial trade and travel, which are essential to the Texas economy, are again excluded from the updated order.
Wolf also announced an indefinite extension of a policy that quickly returns undocumented immigrants apprehended between the ports of entry without allowing them the chance to apply for asylum. The policy, generally referred to as Title 42 restrictions after the provision in the United States Code, was announced in March and extended in April.
“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,” said Dr. Robert R. Redfield, the director of the Centers for Disease Control Prevention, according to the text of his order.
The policy will be reviewed every 30 days, and there is no specific end date prescribed, Redfield said. He’ll instead decide whether to amend the policy if and when “the danger of further introduction of COVID-19 into the United States has ceased to be a serious danger to the public health.”
The American Civil Liberties Union wasted no time in responding to the extension, claiming in a statement Tuesday that the CDC policy has nothing to do with COVID-19.
“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 ICE [Immigration and Customs Enforcement] and CBP [Customs and Border Protection] detention and suspending civil immigration enforcement,” said Andrea Flores, deputy director of immigration policy for the ACLU. “Instead, the president is hellbent on exploiting a public health crisis to achieve his long-held goal of ending asylum at the border.”