At least 328 Chinese nationals trying to enter the United States illegally since January have been intercepted by U.S. Customs and Border Protection officials as part of heightened awareness on the borders to block the coronavirus from slipping into the nation.
Officials told Secrets Wednesday that since January, 328 Chinese were “apprehended” and sent back across the border or repatriated consistent with existing policy and procedure. Another three from South Korea, where the virus is also spreading, were also caught.
Some 227 foreign nationals from other nations who tried to enter through legal border points from Feb. 2 through March 3 have been turned away due to the travel restriction ordered by the president and implemented by the Department of Homeland Security, officials said.
The White House previously announced travel restrictions for China, saying the U.S. would keep out any foreign national who’s been in China within 14 days.
Several agencies within the DHS have been enlisted into President Trump’s “whole of government” attack on the virus, and more than 700 officials have been deployed to the effort.
Senior administration officials said that the president’s three-year focus on the border, the new wall, and the policy of keeping illegal immigrants in Mexico while awaiting permission to enter the U.S., have gone a long way to keep the virus away, especially at the southern border.
But acting Homeland Security Secretary Chad Wolf on Tuesday raised concerns about a court challenge to the Migrant Protection Protocols policy of keeping migrants in Mexico, where the coronavirus has also landed.
“MPP has an uncertain future. We know from experience that the journey to the U.S. border puts migrants in poor conditions — and they often arrive with no passports, medical histories, or travel manifests. The administration will continue to closely monitor the virus globally, as well as in our hemisphere, and will adjust our proactive measures as necessary,” he said.
Added a senior administration official: “We have a unique public health threat posed by individuals arriving unlawfully at the border. Any halting of MPP would exacerbate that threat.”
DHS acting Deputy Secretary Ken Cuccinelli said, “The department’s top priority is the safety of the American people, and President Trump has directed an aggressive, coordinated interagency response to fulfill that mission.”
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