New Trump Travel Bans In Light of COVID-19 Are Short-Sighted and Reactionary

In March 12, 2020
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The United States has issued a new travel ban targeted at limiting travel from Europe in light of the COVID-19 pandemic.

Yesterday, President Trump issued Proclamation 9984 (Suspension of Entry as Immigrants and Nonimmigrants of Persons Who Pose a Risk of Transmitting 2019 Novel Coronavirus and Other Appropriate Measures To Address This Risk), which limits travel from EU-specific countries. This follows on the heels of travel bans against all persons who had traveled to China and Iran in the last 14 days.

The travel ban goes into effect this Friday at midnight EST and the restrictions apply only to foreign nationals, not U.S. citizens, green card holders or the families of U.S. citizens. However, given we still have parents and spouses of U.S. citizens stuck in China and Iran, we know the latter to not be true.

The United States government has stated this policy will be in place for the next 30 days.

Strikingly, the travel ban does not apply to Britain as of now, even though the pandemic has also spread to the UK and does apply to persons from Britain who have been to EU-member countries in the past 14 days. It appears that the ban is in response to the fact that EU member countries have “open borders” and feeds into xenophobic narratives that the Trump administration has long espoused. The Proclamation specifically states, “the free flow of people between the Schengen Area countries makes the task of managing the spread of the virus difficult.”

While we agree with taking measures to limit exposure, this travel ban is reactionary and short-sighted. The novel coronavirus is already here and spreading. We can’t simply deport it away or render it inadmissible.

However, up until yesterday, the Trump administration was unprepared to admit that this virus was a real problem demanding real solutions. A few days ago, the Immigration Judges union revealed how it had to fight to put up posters about the COVID-19 virus. The Trump administration’s new public charge rules implemented just a few weeks ago target non-citizens who seek social services, which means that immigrants around the country are opting out of health and nutritional care critical to combating the spread of the virus. Thousands of immigrants are detained in prison awaiting court hearings or stuck in horrific conditions in Mexico awaiting asylum hearings, and these conditions are ripe for the virus to spread.

If the Trump administration is serious about combating the spread of the virus, it needs to cancel all USCIS and immigration court appearances, overturn the Remain in Mexico policy and release persons from ICE detention, where the virus is more likely to spread and cause harm. The administration must also suspend the public charge rules so mixed-status American families are not living in fear of accessing medical services and benefits. Finally, the administration also needs to grant a reprieve from deportation to everyone from impacted countries, and ease restrictions on change/extension of status requests.

We need free tests and a plan to treat those who are sick, immune-compromised, and vulnerable. Beyond payroll tax cuts and universal basic income, we need healthcare for all persons, and paid sick leave for everyone. Not doing so means continuing to endanger lives.

In response to the COVID-19 pandemic, Lal Legal and our staff has instituted remote work from home policies until further notice. All appointments and consults will be held via phone and/or video conferencing. Documents requiring original signatures can still be dropped off at the front-desk during regular business hours, or snail mailed. All other documents can and should be sent via email.

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