As Coronavirus Spreads, Southern Lawmakers Urge More Border Control



Some border-state members of Congress are getting restless as the coronavirus starts to surface in Mexico.

“Given the porous nature of our border, and the continued lack of operational control, it is foreseeable, indeed predictable, that any outbreak in Central America or Mexico could cause a rush to our border,” Texas Rep. Chip Roy and 10 other Republican lawmakers stated in a letter to Trump administration officials on Friday.

Sens. Ted Cruz and John Cornyn of Texas and Martha McSally of Arizona, all Republicans, joined the chorus of concerned legislators, writing to U.S. Customs and Border Protection Acting Commissioner Mark Morgan: “We are concerned about the possible spread of the coronavirus across our borders. Border shortcomings by the European Union have resulted in the spread of the virus across a number of nations, and it is essential that the United States not repeat these mistakes.”  

Democrats, boxed in by their liberal immigration agenda, have remained mum on the issue. (Rep. Julian Castro, D-Texas, did complain that the administration failed to inform him about the airlift of coronavirus patients to Lackland Air Force Base, in his district on San Antonio’s south side.)

Declaring that “border security is health security,” President Donald Trump is said to be weighing tighter restrictions at the U.S.-Mexico border, as well as possible restrictions on the entry of travelers from South Korea, Italy and Japan. The first four confirmed coronavirus cases in Mexico involved individuals who recently traveled to Italy.

In recent months, Mexico has seen dramatic increases in migrant traffic from China, the epicenter of the global outbreak. With U.S. Border Patrol apprehending nearly 1,000 Chinese migrants at the southern border between Oct. 1, 2019 and Jan. 31, 2020 (as well as hundreds at the Canadian border), coronavirus concerns are growing commensurately.

In January, FAIR raised the question: “Does an insecure border make the U.S. more vulnerable to coronavirus?” The answer becomes more self-evident by the day. 

Plans for additional border/travel restrictions remain in the preliminary phase. The Department of Homeland Security is considering increased screening of people from certain countries based on two factors: 1) The quality/capacity of the sending country’s medical system; and 2) The number of travelers the country sends to the United States. Mexico would qualify for additional public health admissions restrictions, as it has a struggling healthcare apparatus and sends huge numbers of travelers to the U.S.

If administration officials share President Trump’s commonsense view that “border security is health security,” more robust screening is the very least that must be done. Additional action may be necessary. And in the case of pandemic viruses, only actions, not words, will contain the public-health threat.

As Rep. Roy puts it: “The non-secure southern border is a liability and should be seen as such in any plan.”

About Author

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Bob Dane, the Federation for American Immigration Reform (FAIR)'s Executive Director, has been with FAIR since 2006. His deep belief is that immigration is the most transformational determinant of where we are heading as a nation and that our policies must be reformed in the public interest. Over many years on thousands of radio, TV and print interviews, Bob has made the case that unless immigration is regulated and sensibly reduced, it will be difficult for America to reduce unemployment, increase wages, improve health care and education and heighten national security. Prior to joining FAIR, Bob spent twenty years in network radio, marketing and communications after an earlier career in policy and budgeting within the Reagan Administration. Bob has a degree from George Mason University in Public Administration and Management.

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