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Trump considers banning the re-entry of citizens who may have Coronavirus



WASHINGTON – President Trump is considering new immigration rules that will allow border guards to temporarily block a U.S. citizen or legal permanent resident from returning to the United States from abroad if authorities have reason to believe the person may be infected with the coronavirus.

In recent months, Trump has introduced overarching rules banning foreigners from entering the United States, citing the risk of the virus spreading from hot spots abroad. But these rules have excluded two categories of people seeking to return: US citizens and foreigners who have already established legal residence.

Now a proposal for a regulation would change this effort by expanding the power of the government to prevent the entry of citizens and legal residents in individual, limited circumstances. Federal agencies have been asked to provide feedback on the White House proposal by Tuesday, but it is unclear when it can be approved or announced.

According to the proposal, which relies on existing legal authorities in the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention to protect the country, the government can prevent a citizen or legal resident from crossing the border into the United States if an official “reasonably believes the individual may have been either or is infected with the contagious disease. “

The draft, parts of which were obtained by The New York Times, explicitly states that any order blocking citizens and legal permanent residents must “include appropriate protection to ensure that no constitutional rights are violated.” And it says that citizens and legal residents can not be blocked like a whole class of people.

The documents do not appear to specify how long a citizen or legal resident would need to stay outside the United States.

“The CDC expects that any ban on the introduction of US citizens or LPR from abroad would only apply in the rare circumstances,” the draft says, “when required in the public health interest and be limited in the long run.”

If Trump still approves of the change, it would be an escalation of his administration’s long-running attempt to seal the border on what he considers a threat, and he uses the presence of the coronavirus pandemic as a justification for taking action that would have been seen as draconian in other contexts.

A spokesman for the Department of Homeland Security declined to comment. A CDC spokesman said late Monday afternoon that he would try to gather more information about the proposal.

It is unclear if there are any existing rules that allow U.S. citizens and legal residents to be barred from returning to the United States for a period of time due to concerns about a contagious disease. Immigration officials have a broad power to deny entry to people based on national security issues.

The rule seems to apply to all entry points into the United States, including at airports and along northern and southern borders. In particular, the draft could affect the border with Mexico, where many U.S. citizens and legal residents cross back and forth frequently.

The rule notes the presence of the coronavirus in Mexico as evidence of the need for the modified rule, citing the recent death of the health minister in the border state of Chihuahua, who in the order says he died of Covid-19, the coronavirus disease, after a two-week hospital stay.

“As mentioned, the stress that Covid-19 has put on the Mexican healthcare system has prompted US citizens, LPR and others from Mexico to the United States to seek care,” the draft regulation said.

The draft proposed regulation goes a long way in enforcing the legality of blocking citizens and legal residents based on concerns about the threat of disease entering the United States. But legal experts questioned the constitution for such a ban, even if it is temporary.

“Preventing U.S. citizens from the United States is unconstitutional,” said Omar Jadwat, director of the American Civil Liberties Union’s Immigrants’ Rights Project. “The Trump administration has implemented one border ban after another – most recently for children and asylum seekers – using Covid-19 as an excuse, while failing to bring the virus under control in the United States. The rumored order would be another serious mistake in a year that has already seen too many. “

An earlier trial challenged the government’s ability to use public health laws to seal the border. Carl J. Nichols, a judge recently appointed to the federal bench by Trump, ruled against the government in that case – in part because of the potential implications for U.S. citizens if the practice of blocking border crossings is allowed to continue.

But the practice remains because the government then agreed not to deport the migrating children named in the case, which made it small.

In that case, JBBC v. Wolf, Judge Nichols, of the U.S. District Court for the District of Columbia, repeatedly asked a government attorney if the administration believed it had the legal right to prevent a U.S. citizen from entering in the first place.

The judge asked about a hypothetical Ebola outbreak in which the CDC was worried about people coming in from Mexico. “I believe that the CDC, in your opinion, would have the power to both prohibit anyone coming from Mexico to the United States by anyone,” including citizens, the judge said.

“Yes, your honor,” the lawyer replied. “People say that, and that would include both citizens and non-citizens.” The judge replied that it was a “remarkably broad power.”

The possible change in the regulation is part of a pattern in recent months in which the Trump administration has tried to more forcefully restrict entry into the country – not only from illegal immigrants, but also from legal ones.

Stephen Miller, the architect of the president’s attack on immigration, has been aggressively pushing for years to call back the migration flow. Some of his efforts have been successful, including a program to return asylum seekers to Mexico to await treatment and new rules for those seeking green cards to live and work in the United States legally.

But other efforts by Mr. Miller and the administration have been blocked by legal action. Since the pandemic began, they have been moving aggressively to impose some of the same restrictions on the name to protect Americans from the spread of the virus.

In addition to referring to health problems in order to suspend the country’s asylum program, the president ordered a temporary halt to the issuance of green cards and has suspended the issuance of many work visas aimed at allowing foreigners to work legally in the United States.

Immigrant rights organizations have criticized recent efforts, saying they fear the Trump administration will not lift severe immigration restrictions once the threat of the pandemic is over.


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