The Trump administration on Tuesday finalized a rule that imposes indefinite restrictions on the land borders of the U.S.
The rule gives Centers for Disease Control and Prevention head Robert Redfield the authority to reopen U.S. borders to tourist and other non-commercial travel. Redfield would need to confirm that the coronavirus does not present a threat to the U.S. in order to reopen the borders.
“This order has been one of the most critical tools the Department has used to prevent the further spread of the virus and to protect the American people, [Department of Homeland Security] frontline officers, and those in their care and custody from COVID-19,” Homeland Security secretary Chad Wolf said in a statement.
The order states that “the danger” of coronavirus brought across U.S. borders is such “that a temporary suspension is necessary to protect the public health.”
The order, which has been in force since March, has effectively halted the intake of asylum seekers into the U.S. Border patrol officers at the U.S.-Mexico border have been immediately returning asylum seekers to Mexico, with immigration officials fearing outbreaks of coronavirus in detention facilities. U.S. Immigration, Customs and Enforcement has released hundreds of illegal immigrants from detention facilities to mitigate potential outbreaks, and ICE has suspended operations to arrest illegal immigrants who seek medical care.
Mexico has seen at least 51,000 coronavirus infections and 5,000 deaths as of Tuesday, although various reports claim the country’s death toll is being undercounted. The U.S. has reported 1,500,000 infections and almost 92,000 deaths.