- The Washington Times - Tuesday, May 19, 2020

The Trump administration announced Tuesday that it is indefinitely renewing its coronavirus anti-illegal immigration border policy, which allows Border Patrol agents to quickly return most apprehended migrants back across the border.

The federal Centers for Disease Control and Prevention made the move under the Public Health Act. The CDC had first triggered the act in March and extended it in April, but Tuesday’s move renews the policy for the foreseeable future.

Under the policy, most illegal immigrants caught at the border are processed and returned back across the line within a few hours. It has reduced the number of illegal immigrants in Border Patrol holding facilities from about 20,000 at this time last year to fewer than 100, drastically reducing the risk of coronavirus transmission.

“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 acting Homeland Security Secretary Chad Wolf.

But immigrant-rights advocates have blasted the policy, saying it’s denying asylum-seekers a chance at safety here.

The American Civil Liberties Union said the border restrictions are not needed, and seem aimed more at President Trump’s political goals than health policy.

“Do not be fooled: 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 at the ACLU.

The policy applies to the land borders with both Mexico and Canada.

The CDC says the danger of additional COVID-19 cases coming across the lines is so great that a shutdown is needed.

The Trump administration on Tuesday also renewed its agreement with Mexico and Canada to ban non-essential legal travel across the border.

U.S. officials say Mexico is hitting the worst of the COVID-19 epidemic, and hospitals are turning people away as they lack ventilators.

The CDC pointed to some estimates that Mexico may have as many as 730,000 symptomatic cases.

U.S. border officials say they’ve already come across one Mexican man who came in contact with someone who had COVID-19, and who was attempting to sneak into the U.S. to get better health care.

That man was quickly returned back to Mexico under the border ban.

• Stephen Dinan can be reached at sdinan@washingtontimes.com.

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