Politics

Trump White House mulls entry ban for U.S. citizens thought to have COVID-19

President Donald Trump is reportedly considering a proposal that would allow border officials to temporarily block U.S. citizens or legal residents from entering the country if authorities believe they may be infected with the coronavirus, an extraordinary step as the county grapples with the ongoing pandemic.

The New York Times first reported Monday evening that the White House had been circulating a draft regulation that would expand the government’s authority to prevent entry by Americans and legal residents in limited circumstances. The news comes as confirmed cases of COVID-19 in the U.S. topped 5 million on Sunday. More than 163,000 people have now died due to the virus and infections are still rising in some states.

The proposal relies on the authority of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention to protect the country, the Times reports, noting border officials could block anyone from entering the U.S. if they reasonably believed “that the individual either may have been exposed to or is infected with the communicable disease.”

29 PHOTOSCoronavirus in TexasSee GalleryCoronavirus in TexasHOUSTON, TX – JULY 28:(EDITORIAL USE ONLY) A member of the medical staff speaks to a patient who is treated with a helmet-based ventilator in the COVID-19 intensive care unit at the United Memorial Medical Center on July 28, 2020 in Houston, Texas. COVID-19 cases and hospitalizations have spiked since Texas reopened, pushing intensive-care units to full capacity and sparking concerns about a surge in fatalities as the virus spreads.(Photo by Go Nakamura/Getty Images)A casket carrying the body of Lola M. Simmons is removed from a hearse at Lincoln Memorial Cemetery following a double funeral service for her mother Lola M. Simmons-Jones at the Denley Drive Missionary Baptist Church in Dallas, Texas on July 30, 2020, who both died of coronavirus. – Lola M. Simmons-Jones passed due to the coronavirus on July 15, her daughter Lashaye Antoinette Allen passed away from the coronavirus on July 20. Dallas County reported a record number of COVID-19 related deaths in a single day at 36, according to local health officials. This brings the total to 658 confirmed deaths since the first one was reported March 19. (Photo by Bryan R. Smith / AFP) (Photo by BRYAN R. SMITH/AFP via Getty Images)HOUSTON, TX – JULY 28:(EDITORIAL USE ONLY) Members of the medical staff treat a patient in the COVID-19 intensive care unit at the United Memorial Medical Center on July 28, 2020 in Houston, Texas. COVID-19 cases and hospitalizations have spiked since Texas reopened, pushing intensive-care units to full capacity and sparking concerns about a surge in fatalities as the virus spreads.(Photo by Go Nakamura/Getty Images)HOUSTON, TX – JULY 28:(EDITORIAL USE ONLY) Members of the medical staff treat a patient who is wearing helmet-based ventilator in the COVID-19 intensive care unit at the United Memorial Medical Center on July 28, 2020 in Houston, Texas. COVID-19 cases and hospitalizations have spiked since Texas reopened, pushing intensive-care units to full capacity and sparking concerns about a surge in fatalities as the virus spreads.(Photo by Go Nakamura/Getty Images)HOUSTON, TX – JULY 28:(EDITORIAL USE ONLY) Members of the medical staff talk to each otherin the COVID-19 intensive care unit at the United Memorial Medical Center on July 28, 2020 in Houston, Texas. COVID-19 cases and hospitalizations have spiked since Texas reopened, pushing intensive-care units to full capacity and sparking concerns about a surge in fatalities as the virus spreads.(Photo by Go Nakamura/Getty Images)HOUSTON, TX – JULY 28:(EDITORIAL USE ONLY)A patient who is treated with a helmet-based ventilator lies on a bed in the COVID-19 intensive care unit at the United Memorial Medical Center on July 28, 2020 in Houston, Texas. COVID-19 cases and hospitalizations have spiked since Texas reopened, pushing intensive-care units to full capacity and sparking concerns about a surge in fatalities as the virus spreads.(Photo by Go Nakamura/Getty Images)HOUSTON, TX – JULY 28:(EDITORIAL USE ONLY) Members of the medical staff change bed sheets in the COVID-19 intensive care unit at the United Memorial Medical Center on July 28, 2020 in Houston, Texas. COVID-19 cases and hospitalizations have spiked since Texas reopened, pushing intensive-care units to full capacity and sparking concerns about a surge in fatalities as the virus spreads.(Photo by Go Nakamura/Getty Images)HOUSTON, TX – JULY 28:(EDITORIAL USE ONLY) Members of the medical staff treat a patient who is wearing helmet-based ventilator in the COVID-19 intensive care unit at the United Memorial Medical Center on July 28, 2020 in Houston, Texas. COVID-19 cases and hospitalizations have spiked since Texas reopened, pushing intensive-care units to full capacity and sparking concerns about a surge in fatalities as the virus spreads.(Photo by Go Nakamura/Getty Images)HOUSTON, TX – JULY 28:(EDITORIAL USE ONLY) Members of the medical staff treat a patient in the COVID-19 intensive care unit at the United Memorial Medical Center on July 28, 2020 in Houston, Texas. COVID-19 cases and hospitalizations have spiked since Texas reopened, pushing intensive-care units to full capacity and sparking concerns about a surge in fatalities as the virus spreads.(Photo by Go Nakamura/Getty Images)The caskets holding the bodies of Lola M. Simmons-Jones and her daughter, Lashaye Antoinette Allen, who both died of coronavirus, are placed next one another before burial at Lincoln Memorial Cemeteryin Dallas, Texas on July 30, 2020. – Lola M. Simmons-Jones passed due to the coronavirus on July 15, her daughter Lashaye Antoinette Allen passed away from the coronavirus on July 20. Dallas County reported a record number of COVID-19 related deaths in a single day at 36, according to local health officials. This brings the total to 658 confirmed deaths since the first one was reported March 19. (Photo by Bryan R. Smith / AFP) (Photo by BRYAN R. SMITH/AFP via Getty Images)TOPSHOT – A casket carrying the body of Lola M. Simmons is placed into a hearse following the funeral service at the Denley Drive Missionary Baptist Church in Dallas, Texas on July 30, 2020, whodied of coronavirus alongside her daughter Lashaye Antoinette Allen. – Lola M. Simmons-Jones passed due to the coronavirus on July 15, her daughter Lashaye Antoinette Allen passed away from the coronavirus on July 20. Dallas County reported a record number of COVID-19 related deaths in a single day at 36, according to local health officials. This brings the total to 658 confirmed deaths since the first one was reported March 19. (Photo by Bryan R. Smith / AFP) (Photo by BRYAN R. SMITH/AFP via Getty Images)A man in a car waits to be tested for COVID-19 at a drive-thru testing site at Camping World Stadium on July 22, 2020 in Orlando, Florida. On Wednesday, Florida recorded more than 100 new coronavirus deaths for the seventh time in two weeks, and is tied with Texas for the worst current daily average in the nation. (Photo by Paul Hennessy/NurPhoto via Getty Images)A City of Orlando employee holds a COVID-19 test sample at a drive-thru testing site at Camping World Stadium on July 22, 2020 in Orlando, Florida. On Wednesday, Florida recorded more than 100 new coronavirus deaths for the seventh time in two weeks, and is tied with Texas for the worst current daily average in the nation. (Photo by Paul Hennessy/NurPhoto via Getty Images)A couple wearing face masks waits to be tested for COVID-19 at a drive-thru testing site at Camping World Stadium on July 22, 2020 in Orlando, Florida. On Wednesday, Florida recorded more than 100 new coronavirus deaths for the seventh time in two weeks, and is tied with Texas for the worst current daily average in the nation. (Photo by Paul Hennessy/NurPhoto via Getty Images)A man who arrived on foot is tested for COVID-19 at a drive-thru testing site at Camping World Stadium on July 22, 2020 in Orlando, Florida. On Wednesday, Florida recorded more than 100 new coronavirus deaths for the seventh time in two weeks, and is tied with Texas for the worst current daily average in the nation. (Photo by Paul Hennessy/NurPhoto via Getty Images)EL PASO, TX – JULY 21: A nurse pulls out a testing swab at a newly opened mega drive-thru site at El Paso Community College Valle Verde campus on July 21, 2020 in El Paso, Texas. As coronavirus deaths surge past 4000 in Texas, overwhelmed hospitals are being forced to plan for extra refrigerated storage to hold deceased patients. (Photo by Cengiz Yar/Getty Images)EL PASO, TX – JULY 21: People wait in their cars at a newly opened mega drive-thru site at SISD Student Activities Complex on July 21, 2020 in El Paso, Texas. As coronavirus deaths surge past 4000 in Texas, overwhelmed hospitals are being forced to plan for extra refrigerated storage to hold deceased patients. (Photo by Cengiz Yar/Getty Images)MC ALLEN, TEXAS-July 20, 2020-Sonia Aguirre, right, and 9-years-old Abdiel Sanchez pays respect to his great grandfather Fernando Aguirre, who passed away at age 69 from COVID-19. Fernando’s wife is struggling for her life with coronavirus. The coronavirus is spreading rapidly through the Rio Grande Valley in Texas, where people of all ages are getting infecting at family gatherings. (Carolyn Cole/Los Angeles Times via Getty Images)MC ALLEN, TEXAS-July 20, 2020-Deacon Joe Vargas, age 43, is conducting three funerals a day, while wearing an air purifier around his neck to help protect him from getting the coronavirus. He is the youngest deacon in the Diosese of Brownsville, Texas, which is why he is so busy. The coronavirus is spreading rapidly through the Rio Grande Valley in Texas, where people of all ages are getting infecting at family gatherings. (Carolyn Cole/Los Angeles Times via Getty Images)EL PASO, TX – JULY 21: The El Paso County Office of the Medical Examiner on July 21, 2020 in El Paso, Texas. As coronavirus deaths surge past 4000 in Texas, overwhelmed hospitals are being forced to plan for extra refrigerated storage to hold deceased patients. (Photo by Cengiz Yar/Getty Images)MC ALLEN, TEXAS-July 20, 2020-Two day-old David Alejandro Vega was being treated in the neonatal intensive care unit at Doctors Hospital at Renaissance in Edinbug, Texas. His mother, Mayra Vega, who tested positive for COVID, had been unable to hold or see him except via video. Mayra Vega, his mother, tested positive last month, and it resting in the maternal coronavirus ward at Doctors Hospital at Renaissance in McAllen, Texas. The coronavirus is spreading rapidly through the Rio Grande Valley in Texas, where people of all ages are getting infecting at family gatherings. (Carolyn Cole/Los Angeles Times via Getty Images)MC ALLEN, TEXAS-July 20, 2020-The brother of the groom, Noe De Leon, right, and his wife Jessica Forquer-DeLeon, left, watch with several dozen masked guests during Nichola De Leon’s wedding Saturday at Our Lady of Guadalupe Catholic Church in Mission, Texas.The brother of the groom, Noe De Leon, and his wife ???, watch with several dozen masked guests during Nichola De Leon’s wedding Saturday at Our Lady of Guadalupe Catholic Church in Mission, Texas. The coronavirus is spreading rapidly through the Rio Grande Valley in Texas, where people of all ages are getting infecting at family gatherings. (Carolyn Cole/Los Angeles Times via Getty Images)MC ALLEN, TEXAS-July 20, 2020-A COVID-19 patient is placed on her stomach to help breathing while on a ventilator at Doctors Hospital at Renaissance in Edinburg, Texas, where hospitalizations and deaths have spiked this month. The coronavirus is spreading rapidly through the Rio Grande Valley in Texas, where people of all ages are getting infecting at family gatherings. (Carolyn Cole/Los Angeles Times via Getty Images)MC ALLEN, TEXAS-July 20, 2020-Catrina Rugar, 34, a traveling nurse from Florida, responded first to hospitals in New York City, then Texas’ Rio Grande Valley this month, where she was treating COVID patients at Doctors Hospital at Renaissance in Edinburg last week.The coronavirus is spreading rapidly through the Rio Grande Valley in Texas, where people of all ages are getting infecting at family gatherings. (Carolyn Cole/Los Angeles Times via Getty Images)HOUSTON, TX – JULY 17: Medical workers from New York wearing personal protective equipments handle test samples at temporary testing site for COVID-19 in Higher Dimensions Churchon July 17, 2020 in Houston, Texas. New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo dispatched medical workers from New York State to assist with the spread of COVID-19 in Houston, and particularly in the hard-hit communities of color. (Photo by Go Nakamura/Getty Images)Registered Respiratory Therapist Niticia Mpanga walks into a Covid patients room in the ICU at Oakbend Medical Center in Richmond, Texas, on July 15, 2020. – The latest modeling projects the number of COVID-19 deaths in the US to increase further, even as one research team suggests the near-universal use of masks could save 40,000 lives between now and November (Photo by Mark Felix / AFP) (Photo by MARK FELIX/AFP /AFP via Getty Images)A healthcare worker answers the phone in the ER at Oakbend Medical Center in Richmond, Texas, on July 15, 2020. – The latest modeling projects the number of COVID-19 deaths in the US to increase further, even as one research team suggests the near-universal use of masks could save 40,000 lives between now and November (Photo by Mark Felix / AFP) (Photo by MARK FELIX/AFP /AFP via Getty Images)A healthcare worker talks to a patient in the ER at Oakbend Medical Center in Richmond, Texas, on July 15, 2020. – The latest modeling projects the number of COVID-19 deaths in the US to increase further, even as one research team suggests the near-universal use of masks could save 40,000 lives between now and November (Photo by Mark Felix / AFP) (Photo by MARK FELIX/AFP /AFP via Getty Images)A healthcare worker walks down the hall of the ICU at Oakbend Medical Center in Richmond, Texas, on July 15, 2020. – The latest modeling projects the number of COVID-19 deaths in the US to increase further, even as one research team suggests the near-universal use of masks could save 40,000 lives between now and November (Photo by Mark Felix / AFP) (Photo by MARK FELIX/AFP /AFP via Getty Images)Up Next

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The Washington Post added later Monday that medical officials say increased border restrictions would do little to curb the spread of the coronavirus in the U.S., as many regions are already seeing widespread community transmission.

It’s unclear if the White House has the legal standing to bar Americans or legal residents from coming back to their own country, and the Times notes a draft copy of the order says any potential regulation must “include appropriate protections to ensure that no constitutional rights are infringed.”

But it would be the latest effort by the Trump administration to use the coronavirus pandemic to rein in immigration and border entry procedures. During the course of the outbreak, the president has moved to limit entry from China and most of Europe, blocked entry to foreigners on skilled worker visas and tried to mandate overseas students leave the country if their universities only held online classes due to the virus (that change was rescinded under fierce opposition).

The Times, which obtained a copy of the proposal, said it appears to impact all ports of entry into the United States and could home in on the U.S. border with Mexico, where many Americans and legal residents regularly cross back and forth.

“As noted, the stress that COVID-19 has placed on the Mexican health care system has driven U.S. citizens, L.P.R.s and others from Mexico into the United States to seek care,” the draft reads.

The news has already prompted a swift rebuke from civil rights groups.

“Barring American citizens from the United States is unconstitutional,” the ACLU wrote on Twitter. “The Trump administration has rolled out one border ban after another using COVID-19 as an excuse, while failing abysmally to get the virus under control.”

Barring American citizens from the United States is unconstitutional.

The Trump administration has rolled out one border ban after another using COVID-19 as an excuse, while failing abysmally to get the virus under control. https://t.co/1Ifjyyxwsn

The U.S. has continued to struggle with surges of the coronavirus after an economically devastating lockdown across many states earlier in the pandemic. Trump has continued to urge states to reopen their economies, told schools to let students attend in-person classes and called for college football games to go ahead as planned.

But such efforts have been difficult. A report released on Sunday found nearly 100,000 children in the U.S. tested positive for COVID-19 in the last two weeks of July alone, underscoring the difficulty schools face as they consider how they can reopen in the fall.

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