The Trump administration has barred refuge to nearly 10,000 Mexicans and Central Americans after closing down the southern border during the US coronavirus outbreak last month.
The people have been “expelled” back to Mexico and denied asylum under guidelines set by President Trump when he shut down non-essential travel across the border on March 21, the US Customs and Border Protection said Thursday.
Mark Morgan, the department’s acting commissioner, said the changes were “not about immigration.”
“What’s happening right now is a public health crisis driven by a global pandemic, which has resulted in a national emergency declared by this president to protect the health and safety of every American in this country,” Morgan said.
The administration closed both the country’s borders under a law allowing the head of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention to ban foreigners if their entry would create “a serious danger” to the spread of communicable disease.
CDC director Dr. Robert Redfield said “the touchstone of this order” is about limiting the health risks associated with holding migrants in crowded Border Patrol stations.
Though border agents can refer migrants for additional screenings under a lesser form of asylum if there is a “reasonably believable” fear of being tortured at home.
Under the policy, those turned away are transported to the nearest border crossing while agents minimize interactions to limit the risk of exposure to the virus.
“If someone is deemed to have the appropriate level of fear, those will be processed on a case-by-case basis,” Morgan, the CBP acting chief, said Thursday.
CBP reported less than 100 people in custody, a drastic drop from more than 19,000 last year.
The United States has reported more than 463,000 coronavirus cases, the most in the world. Mexico has reported 3,181 cases, while Canada has documented 20,654.
With Post wires
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