BROWNSVILLE, Texas – The Trump Administration has been criticized for a proposal that would bar U.S. citizens and lawful residents from crossing at U.S.-Mexico land ports of entry if there is a suspicion the person has been exposed to COVID-19.

The criticism comes from the Texas Border Coalition (TBC), a group of cities and counties representing more than 2.5 million people along the Texas-Mexico border. TBC says constitutional rights are at stake.

“The proposal under consideration would come at the expense of the constitutional rights of U.S. border residents,” wrote Cameron County Judge and TBC Chairman Eddie Treviño, Jr., in a letter sent to President Trump.

Treviño argued the proposal would create great uncertainty about whether legal travel was permitted, causing a potential “severe economic and social disaster” along the border region.

“The uncertainty would be based on the inordinate amount of discretion given to Customs and Border Protection agents at the land ports of entry, who have neither adequate training nor clear standards to determine whether people seeking to enter the U.S. may have been exposed to the coronavirus,” Treviño wrote.

Treviño urged the administration to reject the proposal and consult with border elected officials, as well as health and medical experts on how best to prevent the spread of the virus.

“The pandemic has already left U.S. border cities economically paralyzed,” Treviño said. “We cannot afford to add to the border’s economic burden, putting at further risk minority-owned small businesses, cross-border trade, and the economic benefits of daily travelers between our countries who invest in binational commerce through the U.S. goods and services they acquire.”

Treviño said the proposal under consideration would come at the expense of the constitutional rights of U.S.-Mexico border residents – many of whom live and work on either side of the border – and would create uncertainty about whether legal travel was permitted.

Moreover, U.S. Customs and Border Protection agents would be given an inordinate amount of discretion to determine whether people seeking to enter the U.S. may have been exposed to the virus, Treviño argued.

“If such a policy were to be implemented, it would cause U.S. border communities and businesses to suffer economically, more than they already have due to the COVID-19 crisis,” Treviño said.

In addition to President Trump, the TBC letter was sent to the Texas Border Congressional Caucus; the Texas Border Legislative Delegation; the Congressional Hispanic Caucus; Amb. Martha Barcena, Embassy of Mexico in the United States; Andrea R. Ramirez, Ph.D.,Special Assistant to the President and Director of Hispanic Engagement, White House Office of Public Liaison; Jennifer Korn, Deputy Assistant to the President, White House; and Victor De Leon, Chief, Intergovernmental Affairs, Office of the Commissioner, DHS.

Letter to President Trump


Cameron County Judge Eddie Treviño, Jr., is also chairman of the Texas Border Coalition.

Here is the letter Judge Treviño sent to the White House:

August 13, 2020

The Honorable Donald J. Trump

President of the United States

The White House

Washington, D.C. 20500

Dear Mr. President,

Media reports suggest your administration is considering a proposal that would prohibit U.S. citizens and lawful residents from crossing the U.S.-Mexico border if there is a suspicion that the person has been exposed to coronavirus. The Texas Border Coalition (TBC) urges you not to implement such a policy at the land ports of entry. Instead, TBC asks that you direct your administration to consult with border leaders and local health and medical authorities on how to best prevent the spread of the disease in border areas.

The TBC acts as the collective voice of border communities on issues that affect Texas-Mexico border region quality of life, commerce, and public policy. TBC is comprised of county judges, mayors, city council members, county executives, businesses and community leaders. We believe in the economic vibrancy of the border region. Collectively, we represent more than 2.5 million people who reside in communities along more than 1,250 miles of the Texas-Mexico border, from Brownsville to El Paso.

As you know, there are large numbers of American citizens and lawful residents who work and live on different sides of the border. The proposal under consideration would come at the expense of the constitutional rights of U.S. border residents. It would create great uncertainty about whether legal travel would be permitted, causing a potential severe economic and social disaster in our region. The uncertainty would be based on the inordinate amount of discretion given to Customs and Border Protection agents at the land ports of entry, who have neither adequate training nor clear standards to determine whether people seeking to enter the U.S. may have been exposed to the coronavirus.

If such a policy were to be implemented, it would cause U.S. border communities and businesses to suffer economically, more than they already have due to the COVID-19 crisis. The pandemic has already left U.S. border cities economically paralyzed. We cannot afford to add to the border’s economic burden, putting at further risk minority-owned small businesses, cross-border trade, and the economic benefits of daily travelers between our countries who invest in binational commerce through the U.S. goods and services they acquire.

Thank you in advance for your consideration on this important matter to business and elected leaders on the U.S.-Mexico border.

Sincerely,

Eddie Treviño Jr.

Chairman, Texas Border Coalition

County Judge, Cameron County

Extreme Delays


Meanwhile, the City of McAllen has warned local residents that because of additional screening of border crossers at its international bridges,, longer wait times can be expected.

The city points out that citizens and legal residents will be affected by recent changes implemented by Customers & Border Protection.

The city says CBP is trying to minimize the exposure of COVID-19 to the community. It says CBP officers will ask travelers at the international bridges returning from trips to Mexico whether the trip was essential or non-essential.

CBP officers will then make a determination whether the trip was essential or non-essential, the city states. Those returning will be placed in either an essential or non-essential line for processing.

The city points out that CBP is not refusing entry to U.S. Citizens or U.S. residents.

“Non-essential travel lines may face severe and extreme delays. Those who travel across should exercise caution and expect possible delays upon their return, the City of McAllen said, in a news release.

Travel restrictions for foreign nationals has been extended to September 21, 2020.

There is currently no guidelines from CBP on what constitutes essential or non-essential travel.

Editor’s Note: The main image accompanying the above news story shows pedestrians crossing from Mexico to Texas at the McAllen Hidalgo International Bridge, Friday, March 20, 2020, in Hidalgo, Texas. (Photo: AP Photo/Eric Gay)


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