WASHINGTON, D.C. – As expected, President Trump has announced that travel across the U.S.-Mexico border will be restricted to commerce and essential visits.
At a news conference at the White House on Friday, Trump praised Mexico and Canada for their collaboration in the fight against the coronavirus. Trump announced a similar measure on the U.S.-Canadian border earlier in the week.
The new restrictions begin Saturday, March 21.
“We are working with Canada and Mexico to prevent the spread of the virus across North America. You heard what we did yesterday with Canada. It is a joint comprehensive effort in collaboration with our neighbors,” Trump said.
“The measure, and all of the measures that we are putting in place, will protect the health of all three nations and reduce the incentive for a mass global migration that would badly deplete the healthcare resources needed for our people.”
Trump said the United States is working very closely with Mexico and Canada.
“The relationship has never been better. We are all working towards the same goal. Our nation’s top healthcare officials are extremely concerned about the grave public health consequences of mass uncontrolled cross border movement,” Trump said.
“Every week, our border agents encounter thousands of unscreened, unvetted, and unauthorized entries from dozens of countries. We have had this problem for decades. You know the story. But now, with the national emergencies and all of the other things we have declared, we can actually do something about it.”
Trump said a new level of security is being put in place at the border, the like of which has never been seen before.
“In normal times these massive flows place a vast burden on our healthcare system but during a global pandemic they threaten to create a perfect storm that would spread the infection to our border agents, migrants, and to the public at large,” Trump said.
“Left unchecked this would cripple our immigration system, overwhelm our healthcare system and severely damage our national security. We are not going to let that happen.”
Trump said the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention has decided to exercise its authority under Title 42 of the U.S. Code to give Customs and Border Protection the tools it needs to prevent the transmission of the virus coming through both the northern and the southern borders.
“So, we are treating the borders equally, the northern border and the southern border. A lot of people say they are not being treated equally. Well they are.”
Speaking of the new measures, Trump said: “As with Canada, we are also working with Mexico to implement new rules at our ports of entry to suspend non-essential travel. These new rules and procedures will not impede lawful trade and commerce.”
Trump added that Mexico has taken action to suspend air travel from Europe. “So, we are coordinating very closely the air travel going into Mexico and then trying to come into the United States. The actions we are taking with our North America partners will save countless lives.”
Secretary of State Mike Pompeo was with the president for the news conference. Pompeo said the new security measures will be reviewed after 30 days. He hastened to add that the new restrictions “excludes traffic and movement for work and other essential reasons.”
Speaking of Mexico, Pompeo said: “Both of our countries know the importance of working together to limit the spread of the virus and ensure that commerce that supports our economy continues to keep flowing. The United States is glad to have a friend who is working side by side us in the fight.”
Pompeo added that the State Department on Thursday issued a Level 4 global travel advisory. “This means that all international travel from U.S. citizens should be avoided,” he said.
Chad F. Wolf is the acting Secretary of Homeland Security and Under Secretary of Homeland Security for Strategy, Policy, and Plans. He also spoke at the news conference.
“As we continue to evaluate common sense measures that reduce risk and prevent further spread, it only makes sense that we look at the measures our neighbors to the north and south are undertaking,” Wolf said. “We have been working closely with those partners since the earliest days of this virus.”
Wolf said the U.S. has reached agreement with Canada and Mexico to eliminate non-essential travel across the nation’s land borders.
“Let me be clear that neither of these agreements with Canada or Mexico applies to lawful trade or commerce. Essential commercial activity will not be impacted. We will continue to maintain a strong, secure, economic supply chain across our borders“ Wolf said.
Examples of essential travel, Wolf said, include individuals traveling for medical purposes, to attend educational institutions, emergency response and public health services, and individuals engaged in lawful cross border trade.
“Furthermore we are also working collaboratively with Canada and Mexico to take decisive joint action regarding individuals seeking entry between our ports of entry,” Wolf said, referring to migrants that seek to enter the country without documentation.
He said the coronavirus represents a serious danger to migrants, frontline border agents, CBP officers and the American people.
“It is important to note that the (DHS) department currently apprehends foreign nationals from over 120 different countries around the world. The vast majority of those having coronavirus cases,” Wolf said.
“Many of these individuals arrive with little or no identity, travel or medical documentation, making public health risk determinations all but impossible.”
Wolf argued that any outbreak of coronavirus on the southern border would likely increase the strain on health systems in border communities, taking away important and life saving resources from American citizens.
“Again, CBP its positioned to execute these measures as we continue to keep our borders secure and safe.”
Wolf added: “The (DHS) department has a number of frontline officers that have tested positive, as well as others that are self quarantined. I am doing everything that I can to protect these patriots as they continue to defend our homeland during this crisis.”
Joint U.S.-Mexico Statement
The Department of Homeland Security issued a statement approved by the governments of the United States and Mexico. Here it is:
“The strong partnership and close cooperation between the United States and Mexico has allowed us to maintain a productive border environment. We value the health and safety of our citizens and keep that at the forefront of joint decisions made by our respective leaders regarding cross-border operations.
“Recognizing the robust trade relationship between the United States and Mexico, we agree our two countries, in response to the ongoing global and regional health situation, require particular measures both to protect bilateral trade and our countries’ economies and ensure the health of our nations’ citizens. We agree to the need for a dedicated joint effort to prevent spread of the COVID-19 virus and address the economic effects resulting from reduced mobility along our shared border.
“The U.S. and Mexican governments further recognize critical services such as food, fuel, healthcare and life-saving medicines must reach people on both sides of the border every day. Essential travel must therefore continue unimpeded during this time. In order to ensure that essential travel can continue, the United States and Mexico are also temporarily restricting all non-essential travel across its borders.
“‘Non-essential’ travel includes travel that is considered tourism or recreational in nature. Additionally, we are encouraging people to exercise caution by avoiding unnecessary contact with others.
“This collaborative and reciprocal initiative is an extension of our nations’ prudent approach that values the health and safety of our citizens in the joint decisions made by our respective leaders regarding cross-border operations.
“This joint initiative will commence at 00:01 Saturday March 21 throughout the US-Mexico land border for a period of 30 days subject to extension upon review.”