Trump considers banning re-entry of citizens suspected to have COVID-19
United States President Donald Trump is reportedly considering new immigration rules impacting US citizens and legal permanent residents (LPRs) in light of the coronavirus outbreak. The proposed rules, as reported by The New York Times, allow border officials to restrict the re-entry of citizens and LPRs if they have reason to believe that they may have COVID-19. Here are more details.
According to a draft regulation, accessed by NYT, the government could block a citizen or legal resident from crossing the US border if an official "reasonably believes that the individual either may have been exposed to or is infected with the communicable disease." It states that any order blocking citizens/LPRs must "include appropriate protections to ensure that no constitutional rights are infringed."
"CDC expects that any prohibition on the introduction of US citizens or LPRs from abroad would apply only in the rarest of circumstances," the draft reportedly states, "when required in the interest of public health, and be limited in duration."
Notably, federal agencies have been asked to submit feedback on the proposal to the White House by Tuesday. However, it remains unclear when the new rules would be officially notified. Reportedly, the document also does not mention the period for which a citizen/LPR could remain restricted. The proposed rules rely on existing legal authorities of the US CDC to protect the country.
The rule would apply to all entry points in the US. The draft also takes note of the US-Mexico border, mentioning that US citizens/LPRs and others in Mexico have been driven to the US owing to the former's stressed healthcare system. The US has reported over 5 million cases with 1.6 lakh deaths while Mexico has seen 4.85 lakh cases with over 53,000 deaths.
Officials told NYT that currently there are no rules allowing citizens/LPRs to be blocked from re-entry into the US on grounds of concerns about a communicable disease. The draft also states that citizens/LPRs cannot be blocked as an entire class of people.
According to NYT, the draft also explains at length the constitutionality of the proposed rule. However, speaking to the publication, legal experts questioned the constitutionality of such a rule, even if it is temporary. Omar Jadwat—the Director of the American Civil Liberties Union's Immigrants' Rights Project—said, "Barring American citizens from the United States is unconstitutional," adding that this would be "another grave error."
Since the beginning of the pandemic, President Trump has blamed China for the virus and has imposed rules restricting foreigners from entering the country. The US has previously imposed restrictions on travel from China, most of Europe, and other hotspots around the world.