The ban on all "non-essential" travel between the U.S. and Mexico is finally set to expire. Originally put in place early last year in the first months of the pandemic, the ban has been repeatedly extended on a monthly basis since then. While the ban prevents cross-border travel for things like shopping and vacations, it hasn't stopped the surge of illegal immigrants and asylum seekers flooding the border since the start of this year. At the same time, the northern border with Canada has been essentially sealed off, with no cross-travel allowed except those who agree to strict quarantine rules.
Former U.S. immigration judge Mark H. Metcalf tells KTRH allowing this restriction to expire now is a bad idea, with illegal border crossings on a record pace for this year, and COVID cases rising in both the U.S. and Mexico. "We are now seeing re-encounters, in other words people who tried to get through last year or earlier this year are now trying to come back across the border," he says. "If they do permit Mexico and U.S. non-essential travel to commence, I expect to see more of the same things we've seen in the past in terms of illegal entry."
In particular, Metcalf believes all pandemic-related restrictions should remain in place at the border, including the non-essential travel ban and the federal rule allowing migrants to be expelled immediately as a public health concern. "Those expulsions have been very effective in lowering incidents of positive COVID testing in the U.S.," he says. "So the presence of COVID among these migrants still poses a huge risk."
"The border being hardened because of public health reasons worked," Metcalf continues. "And that should be continued until we're as certain as we can be that we're not reintroducing COVID into the U.S. by allowing the borders to be porous."