In mid-March President Nayib Bukele of El Salvador closed
his country’s borders to foreigners. At that point, his country had zero
confirmed cases of COVID-19, commonly known as the coronavirus. Bukele closed
down schools, temporarily shut down the international airport, and banned
flights from Mexico when he believed the Mexican government allowed corona-positive
passengers to board El Salvador- bound flights.
While these measures might seem extreme, to date El Salvador
has only one
El Salvador’s actions demonstrate that borders play a key
role in combatting against the coronavirus.
On Friday, the U.S. and Mexico announced a joint
agreement to close their shared border for non-essential travel over the
next 30 days. This means that for the next month, the U.S. Border Patrol will
immediately return illegal immigrants across the border instead of processing
and holding them in immigration facilities.
Points of entry across the border are operational only for trade and
Closing the border to non-essential travel while still
allowing trade was the right move by President Donald Trump. The U.S. and
Mexico are each other’s largest trade partners and with the U.S. Mexico Canada
Agreement, there are safety guarantees to protect lawful cross-border trade.
Americans should be confident that necessary supply chains like food and
manufactured goods are well-protected.
More importantly, this travel restriction protects border
agents from unnecessary exposure to the coronavirus and reduces the workload
they are experiencing from the border crisis. It is also a smart move as it
allows Customs and Border Protection to redirect man power and sanitary
resources that would have gone to inadmissible migrants towards first
responders and critical industries.
Border agents are at the frontlines and put their lives at
risk every day protecting the country. With the coronavirus, they are now
unwittingly risking their family, friends, and Homeland Security coworkers. Trump
was right to give them this momentary reprieve and, should the crisis continue,
the travel restrictions should be extended.
A recent Politico
article reported that “nearly 500 Homeland Security employees are
quarantined because of the novel coronavirus, and at least 13 are confirmed or
presumed COVID-19 positive”.
Despite what partisan pundits in the mainstream media want
you to think, travel restrictions are not racist or xenophobic. Currently, 41
countries have implemented travel restrictions or border control policies.
It is important to note that Friday’s border action was a
joint agreement with Mexico. Hopefully, the Trump administration is deepening
cooperation with Mexico on their domestic efforts to counter the coronavirus.
As cases of the virus increase in Mexico, the Mexican government
is seriously falling behind on developing and executing a plan. The capitol
city has only prohibited
events larger than 1,000 people and recently allowed a concert
of 70,000 people to take place. Flight restrictions from high-risk
countries are not in place and President Andres Manuel Lopez Obrador continues
traveling around the country, hugging and kissing supporters. Recently,
around 400 Mexican businessmen chartered private plans to Vail, Colorado
for a skiing trip. Upon return, a few have tested positive for COVID-19. The
Jalisco government is looking for them and asking them to self-isolate. Should
Mexico’s lack of internal enforcement continue, the U.S. should also consider
In the midst of a highly contagious global pandemic,
definitions of normalcy are rewritten. Viruses do not respect borders or
boundaries. What was extreme a month ago is now prudent and responsible.
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