Trump administration announces extension of border-restricted travel

FILE - This April 22, 2020, file photo, shows Juarez, Mexico, and the Rio Grande from El Paso Texas. U.S. border agencies quickly expelled about 600 child migrants in April after federal agencies began prohibiting asylum claims at the southern border, citing the coronavirus pandemic. (AP Photo/Cedar Attanasio, File) (Cedar Attanasio, Copyright 2020 The Associated Press. All rights reserved)

The Trump administration on Tuesday announced an extension of two border policies enacted months ago to stem the spread of the coronavirus, including an order criticized by immigrant rights and civil liberties groups who say it’s a backhanded way to achieve the president’s goal of turning away asylum seekers without due process.

Chad Wolf, the acting secretary of the Department of Homeland Security, announced the southern and northern borders with Mexico and Canada will remain closed to non-essential travel until June 22. Non-essential travel, according to the post in the federal register, includes “individuals traveling for tourism purposes” including “sightseeing, recreation, gambling or attending cultural event.”

“Given the outbreak and continued transmission and spread of COVID-19 within the United States and globally, the Secretary has determined that the risk of continued transmission and spread of COVID-19 between the United States and Mexico poses an ongoing 'specific threat to human life or national interests,'" the text posted in the federal register states.

Commercial trade and travel, which is essential to the Texas economy, is again excluded from the updated order.

Wolf also announced an indefinite extension of a policy that quickly returns undocumented immigrants apprehended between the ports of entry without allowing them the chance to apply for asylum. The policy, generally referred to as Title 42 restrictions after the provision in the United States Code, was first announced in March and extended in April.

“At this critical juncture, it would be counterproductive to undermine ongoing public health efforts by relaxing restrictions on the introduction of covered aliens who pose a risk of further introducing COVID-19 into the United States,” Dr. Robert R. Redfield, the director of the Centers for Disease Control said, according to the text of his order.

The policy will be reviewed every 30 days and there is no specific end date prescribed, Redfield said. He’ll instead decide when to amend the policy if and when “the danger of further introduction of COVID-19 into the United States has ceased to be a serious danger to the public health.”

The American Civil Liberties Union wasted no time in responding to the extension, claiming in a statement Tuesday that the CDC policy has nothing to do with COVID-19.

“The administration refuses to heed the advice of public health experts to protect immigrants, government employees, and the general public from sickness and death, including by releasing people from ICE and CBP detention and suspending civil immigration enforcement,” said Andrea Flores, deputy director of immigration policy for the ACLU. “Instead, the president is hellbent on exploiting a public health crisis to achieve his long-held goal of ending asylum at the border.”