Trump mulls banning return of US citizens suspected of contracting coronavirus: reports

The Trump administration is considering a move that could allow immigration officials to temporarily restrict U.S. citizens and lawful permanent residents suspected of contracting COVID-19 abroad from entering the country amid the ongoing pandemic, according to multiple reports.

A U.S. citizen or legal permanent resident could be blocked from returning under the proposal if an official “reasonably believes that the individual either may have been exposed to or is infected with the communicable disease,” The New York Times first reported.

Federal agencies have been asked to submit their feedback on the proposed plan to the White House by Tuesday, according to the newspaper. It was not immediately clear when it could be approved or announced to the public. 

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The draft of the plan states that an order blocking citizens and other legal permanent residents has to “include appropriate protections to ensure that no constitutional rights are infringed” and that the travelers cannot be blocked as an entire class. The documents, obtained by the Times, did not specify how long a citizen or legal resident would be required to remain outside of the country. 

“[Centers for Disease Control and Prevention] expects that any prohibition on the introduction of U.S. citizens or L.P.R.s [legal permanent residents] from abroad would apply only in the rarest of circumstances,” the draft says, saying that the move would be made “when required in the interest of public health, and be limited in duration.”

The draft appears to apply to all points of entry into the U.S. across the country. However, it notes the spread of COVID-19 in Mexico as evidence for the rule, specifically citing the health minister in the state of Chihuahua, who died last month after being hospitalized for COVID-19.

“As noted, the stress that Covid-19 has placed on the Mexican health care system has driven U.S. citizens, L.P.R.s and others from Mexico into the United States to seek care,” the draft of the regulation says, according to the Times.

The Trump administration has sought to limit travel from China, most of Europe and other hot spots for the virus since the beginning of the pandemic earlier this year. The U.S. has also implemented border restrictions with Mexico and Canada, halted flights of refugees and more. However, all of those moves have exempted American citizens and those with the permanent legal status to live in the U.S. 

The government already has the legal authority to screen American citizens and impose quarantines, the Times noted. 

The Hill has reached out to the White House for comment.