The Trump administration Tuesday indefinitely extended an executive order allowing border agents to block most migrants from entering the country over coronavirus fears.
The order, which President Trump first issued in March for both Canadian and Mexican borders, was extended for another month in April. The latest version has no fixed end date, though it gives the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention the authority to review health data every 30 days to determine if it’s still necessary.
The policy grants Customs and Border Protection powers to swiftly boot migrants, including those seeking asylum.
The measure has been championed by administration officials as an important way to stop the spread of the coronavirus, though those supporters have long sought tighter borders before the pandemic.
“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, DHS frontline officers, and those in their care and custody from COVID-19,” said Chad Wolf, the acting secretary of the Department of Homeland Security, in a statement.
Chad Wolf of DHSGetty Images
The order has federal authorities turning away migrants who could have otherwise stayed in the country for months or years as they legally pursued asylum.
CBP agents have been sending Mexican and Central American migrants along the southern border back to Mexico in a span of about two hours. Immigration and Customs Enforcement is in charge of making sure migrants from other countries are quickly repatriated.
Within two and a half weeks of the order, nearly 10,000 migrants were barred from entering the country at the southern border, according to the CBP at the time.
Advocates have claimed the Trump administration is using the virus as an excuse to deny the rights of asylum seekers.
“Trump’s goal is not to protect our health, it’s to sow division and advance his political agenda,” said Andrea Flores, deputy director of immigration policy for the American Civil Liberties Union.
Dr. Robert Redfield, director of the CDC, noted when he issued Tuesday’s order that vaccines and treatment for COVID-19 could still be months away.
He said the order would continue until “the danger of further introduction of COVID-19 into the United States has ceased to be a serious danger to the public health.”
With Post wires