Originally Published in CBS News
Camilo Montoya-Galvez and Andres Triay - August 11, 2020
The Trump administration is considering a measure that would allow U.S. border officials to deny entry to certain American citizens and green card holders suspected of being infected with the coronavirus, a policy that would expand immigration and travel restrictions already put in place during the pandemic.
A Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) team has been working on a draft of the policy, which could be altered and would be enforced by border authorities at the Department of Homeland Security. CDC and Homeland Security officials referred questions about the plans, which were first reported by The New York Times on Monday, to the White House.
Such a measure could rely on a public health law first enacted in the late 19th century and recodified during World War II that the administration has been relying on to expel most border-crossers and asylum-seekers, including unaccompanied children. It authorizes the surgeon general to bar the "introduction of persons or property" posing the danger of introducing a communicable disease into the U.S.
In late June, Justice Department attorney Jean Linthat the law could hypothetically be used to turn away U.S. citizens since the statute refers to "persons" and said such a policy would not "necessarily be unconstitutional" if executed in "a very narrowly tailored way to address a particular public health crisis."
The judge, Carl Nichols, who was appointed by Mr. Trump, agreed with the Justice Department that the law's language seems broad, but he seemed skeptical of the administration's argument that the law allows officials to expel people, including U.S. citizens.
"It seems to me, though, that there's a difference between barring the entry of persons, including U.S. citizens," and "authorizing the removal of persons who have made it into the physical United States," Nichols told Lin.
Ben Tracy, Sara Cook and Arden Farhi contributed to this report.