Report: President Trump considering plan to block some Americans from returning to U.S.

Aug 10, 2020

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The New York Times is reporting late Monday (Aug. 10) President Donald Trump is considering a ban on Americans returning from overseas under certain circumstances.

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The Times reports they’ve seen a draft of the regulations that would allow the president to temporarily block the return of Americans or legal U.S. residents from returning to the U.S. from foreign countries if authorities believe they are infected the coronavirus or sick with COVID-19. It would be an expansion of the government’s power. The Times says,

“.. a draft regulation would expand the government’s power to prevent entry by citizens and legal residents in individual, limited circumstances. Federal agencies have been asked to submit feedback on the proposal to the White House by Tuesday, though it is unclear when it might be approved or announced.

Under the proposal, which relies on existing legal authorities of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, the government could block a citizen or legal resident from crossing the border into the United States if an official “reasonably believes that the individual either may have been exposed to or is infected with the communicable disease.”

Interestingly, the measure reportedly includes language that U.S. citizens Constitutional rights are preserved. It also does not include any kind of timelines for how long citizens would be prevented from returning.

Henry Harteveldt, a travel industry analyst and president of Atmosphere Research told TPG, that this regulation would cause chaos and confusion for returning U.S. citizens, “This proposed regulation would likely further depress already anemic levels of international travel and add to airlines’ financial pressures. This proposed regulation increases the need for a globally-accepted “safe travel protocol” to ensure only bona fide healthy people are allowed to travel – anywhere.”

Border control has wide authority to refuse entry if people present a national security threat, but refusals for health reasons have been exceedingly rare.

The rule would reportedly include northern and southern land borders in addition to airports.

Related: Here’s where Americans can travel internationally

The Times report says, “The rule notes the prevalence of the coronavirus in Mexico as evidence of the need for the modified rule, citing the death on August 2 of the health minister in the Mexican border state of Chihuahua, who the order says died of Covid-19 after a two week hospitalization.”

JohnnyJet founder and editor-in-chief John E. DiScala (aka Johnny Jet) told TPG, “I wouldn’t be too worried if I was an American citizen but if you’re a visa or Green Card holder there’s now another reason to be nervous about returning to the U.S.A.” 

If you missed it, here’s our country-by-country guide to reopenings and our new Africa country-by-country guide.

Indeed, Harteveldt said the report leaves many unanswered questions. Among them, “What will the government use to determine if a person has COVID-19? Would it be an “instant” test or something else? Where would it be administered? Would it be applied to US citizens returning from every country or just one or a few countries? What kind of recourse would the traveler have if she or he is found to have the virus? And if enacted, what would the criteria be for this regulation to be removed?

Related: Can Americans travel internationally after quarantine in U.K. or Ireland?

Related: How special visas bypass international restrictions on essential travel

Related: State-by-state guide to reopening America

Neither the Department of Homeland Security nor the Centers for Disease Control had a comment for the Times as of publication.

You’ll remember early in his presidency, Trump declared a ban on immigrants or visitors from several predominantly Muslim nations. That case went all the way to the Supreme Court before it was modified and eventually became law.

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