Trump weighs blocking US citizens from returning home over coronavirus infection fears

Rozina Sabur
·3-min read
Donald Trump is considering a measure to block US citizens and permanent residents from returning home - Stefani Reynolds/POOL/EPA-EFE/Shutterstock
Donald Trump is considering a measure to block US citizens and permanent residents from returning home - Stefani Reynolds/POOL/EPA-EFE/Shutterstock
Coronavirus Article Bar with counter
Coronavirus Article Bar with counter

US citizens suspected of having coronavirus could be temporarily barred from re-entering America under new immigration rules being considered by the Trump administration.

The draft regulation, which has been leaked to several US outlets, suggests officials could prevent US citizens and legal permanent residents from crossing the border into America if a border official “reasonably believes that the individual either may have been exposed to or is infected with" Covid-19.

The proposed regulation seemingly applies to all points of entry into America, but appears to be directed in particular at the southern US border with Mexico, one of the busiest crossings for Americans and legal permanent residents.

A draft of the text, seen by the New York Times, argues the new rule is justified by the prevalence of the coronavirus in Mexico, stating: “The stress that Covid-19 has placed on the Mexican health care system has driven US citizens, [legal permanent residents] and others from Mexico into the United States to seek care”.

The draft regulation would be issued by the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), which has played a lead role in the pandemic response, a senior administration official said.

The US leads the world in both confirmed coronavirus cases and deaths, with more than 5 million cases recorded and over 162,000 deaths, according to a Reuters tally.

Critics have questioned whether the new proposed regulation adheres to the US constitution, while some accused the Trump administration of using the pandemic as a cover to push its own agenda of limiting both legal and illegal immigration into the country.

Omar Jadwat, director of the American Civil Liberties Union’s immigrants’ rights project, said that barring US citizens from entering the country would be unconstitutional and "another grave error in a year that has already seen far too many".

If enacted, this new rule will significantly increase the sweeping travel restrictions Donald Trump has already imposed because of the coronavirus pandemic.

Earlier this year the US president imposed a ban on travellers from China, most of Europe, Brazil and other countries with large Covid-19 outbreaks entering the US.

However these travel restrictions did not apply to US citizens or permanent legal residents, known as green card holders.

The draft text of the regulation explicitly states that the CDC expects that the new rule "would apply only in the rarest of circumstances... and when required in the interest of public health.”

It also stresses that any order blocking citizens and legal permanent residents must “include appropriate protections to ensure that no Constitutional rights are infringed.”

The proposal does not appear to outline how long a person could be barred from returning to the US, but suggests it would be "limited in duration".

It is unclear when the new rule might be approved or announced, but administration officials said US federal agencies have been asked to submit feedback on the proposal on Tuesday.