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Trump announces more border closures to combat coronavirus

All “nonessential travel” from Canada to end; Asylum-seekers to be denied entry at Mexico border

In his administration’s latest effort to contain the spread of the novel coronavirus, President Donald Trump announced plans Wednesday to clamp down on the nation’s borders, ending all “nonessential” travel from Canada and denying entry from Mexico to asylum-seekers and anyone crossing illegally.

Regarding the U.S. southern border, Trump told reporters during a news conference that he would make a formal announcement “very soon.”

The plan, first reported by The New York Times, was expected to invoke the president’s authority to prohibit the entry of people from nations he deems likely to introduce communicable illnesses into the United States. 

The Department of Homeland Security did not respond to requests from CQ Roll Call seeking additional information.

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Lindsay M. Harris, a University of the District of Columbia law professor who specializes in asylum cases, told CQ Roll Call that it is illegal for the U.S. to completely turn away asylum-seekers, saying it is “contrary to international and domestic law.”

Harris noted that the Trump administration already has implemented several policies over recent months to limit or deter people from requesting asylum in the U.S., such as the “Remain in Mexico” policy formally known as the Migrant Protections Protocol, or MPP. That policy forces asylum-seekers to wait in Mexico while their cases are being processed in the U.S. court system.

“This administration has put in place various policies from metering to the transit ban to MPP to absolutely gut asylum protection, to eviscerate this form of protection,” she said.

Trump announced his plans to close the U.S. border with Canada in a tweet Wednesday morning, saying that the decision was done by “mutual consent” and that trade between the two countries will not be affected. Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau confirmed the closure shortly afterward in a news conference, pledging that the governments would work together to “preserve supply chains” between the two nations.

The news comes a day after Trump hinted his administration was “discussing things” with Canada and Mexico, saying “the relationship is outstanding with both.”

Canada had already closed its borders to nearly everyone except U.S. citizens and Canadian citizens and permanent residents.

Philip G. Schrag, a Georgetown Law professor who specializes in immigration law, told CQ Roll Call that closing the border with Canada will probably not prove effective at containing the coronavirus.

“The virus is present virtually in every country in the world. Closing the borders two months ago would have been effective but now it is not,” he said.

In addition to closing its borders, the White House has submitted a $45.8 billion emergency supplemental funding request to Congress to combat the coronavirus pandemic. That includes more than $800 million for Customs and Border Protection and Immigration and Customs Enforcement, including funding to build migrant quarantine facilities along the southwest border.

ICE would also receive funding for charter flights to continue returning immigrants with orders of removal. 

The coronavirus that causes COVID-19 has killed more than 8,000 people across the world, according to researchers at Johns Hopkins University.

Tanvi Misra contributed to this report.

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