Border Closures and the Fight Against COVID-19

Following the lead of many other nations, Germany has now implemented strict border controls in response to the outbreak of Novel Coronavirus. This follows similar moves by Czech Republic, Cyprus, Denmark, Latvia, Lithuania, Poland, and Slovakia, which have all announced they are closing their borders to the vast majority of foreigners.

Italy is already in a nationwide state of lockdown. Other European nations are sure to follow suit as the number of coronavirus cases multiplies geometrically.

Outside of Europe, Djibouti, Ghana, Haiti, Kenya, Libya, Morocco, Serbia, Tanzania, and Tunisia have either shut down their borders entirely or banned flights originating from within from the European Union.

Closer to home, Canada has announced that it, “will be closing its borders to foreign travellers in an attempt to limit the spread of novel coronavirus.”

Meanwhile, on March 12, 2020, the United States announced that it would block travel from 26 European countries, in an attempt to limit the spread of COVID-19. That ban did not cover the United Kingdom but was quickly expanded to do so. Those restrictions were preceded by the suspension of flights to and from both the People’s Republic of China and Hong Kong.

These are all legitimate measures taken by national governments to protect the health of their citizens. Nonetheless, they have been repeatedly derided as “xenophobic” by media outlets ranging from The Atlantic to NPR. But these criticisms are fatuous nonsense.

Anyone with a basic understanding of infectious disease knows that person-to-person transmission is one of the primary means by which viral and bacterial epidemics are spread. As researchers wrote in Emerging Health Threats a decade ago, ““Mobile populations can link zones of disease emergence to low prevalence or non-endemic areas through rapid or high-volume international movements, or both.” In plain English, that means that travelers can carry infections from one place to another.

Border security is public health security, as FAIR has been warning for quite some time. Most of the recent debate on immigration and border security has focused on protecting the American public from terrorism and transnational crime. However, lax immigration enforcement also exposes the American public to the threat of infectious disease outbreaks.

Moreover, as the outbreak of Novel Coronavirus proves, the emergence of a viral or bacterial pandemic tied to unchecked mass migration is a reality that can no longer be ignored. The first and most obvious way for the United States to protect itself from a global public health crisis is to take the threat seriously and secure its borders. “

About Author


Matthew J. O’Brien joined the Federation for American Immigration Reform (FAIR) in 2016. Matt is responsible for managing FAIR’s research activities. He also writes content for FAIR’s website and publications. Over the past twenty years he has held a wide variety of positions focusing on immigration issues, both in government and in the private sector. Immediately prior to joining FAIR Matt served as the Chief of the National Security Division (NSD) within the Fraud Detection and National Security Directorate (FDNS) at U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS), where he was responsible for formulating and implementing procedures to protect the legal immigration system from terrorists, foreign intelligence operatives, and other national security threats. He has also held positions as the Chief of the FDNS Policy and Program Development Unit, as the Chief of the FDNS EB-5 Division, as Assistant Chief Counsel with U.S. Immigration & Customs Enforcement, as a Senior Advisor to the Citizenship and Immigration Services Ombudsman, and as a District Adjudications Officer with the legacy Immigration & Naturalization Service. In addition, Matt has extensive experience as a private bar attorney. He holds a Bachelor of Arts in French from the Johns Hopkins University and a Juris Doctor from the University of Maine School of Law.