U.S. ‘very strongly’ considering closing southern border amid coronavirus outbreak


President Trump said the administration is “very strongly” considering closing the southern border to prevent the spread of the coronavirus. 

“We are looking also at [the] southern border,” Trump said when asked by a reporter at a White House press conference Saturday about the move. “We have received a lot of power on the southern border over the last couple years from the courts, but we are looking at that very strongly.”

At the press conference, Vice President Pence, who Trump announced on Wednesday would be leading the administration’s response to the virus, announced that the State Department would impose travel restrictions and advisories on Iran, South Korea and Italy, some of the countries hit hardest by the virus. 

Hours before remarks to the press, Reuters reported that the administration was considering closing the southern border in an effort to contain the virus. 

On Friday, a group of 11 Republicans led by Rep. Chip Roy (R-Texas) called on the administration to close the U.S. border with Mexico to prevent an outbreak.

“Given the porous nature of our border, and the continued lack of operational control due to the influence of dangerous cartels, it is foreseeable, indeed predictable, that any outbreak in Central America or Mexico could cause a rush to our border,” they wrote.

The letter came the same day a U.S. district court blocked the administration’s “remain in Mexico policy,” meaning asylum-seekers could again await their cases on U.S. soil. 

“If today’s ruling is allowed to stand, these successes will be reversed, which threatens to flood the Nation’s immigration system, present unchecked coronavirus entry risk, deeply damage our positive relationship with the Government of Mexico and other regional partners, and reignite the humanitarian and security crisis at the border,” read a White House statement on the ruling. 

Mexico’s government announced Friday it had detected three cases of the coronavirus infection in three men who had recently traveled to Italy, making the country the second in Latin America to register the proliferating virus.

Still, as of Saturday afternoon, there are more confirmed cases of coronavirus in the U.S. than in all of Latin America combined. 

The cases that exist in the U.S. are predominantly from American citizens who caught the disease while abroad and were repatriated and quarantined. None of those cases have been traced back to Mexico.

The administration was not asked about, nor did it announce, any potential restrictions on the country’s northern border with Canada, which has 16 confirmed cases of the virus.