The administration is expected to wind down the pandemic-era public health order allowing for the swift expulsion of migrants at the border around the end of the month in a phased approach, a source familiar with the matter told CNN, starting with migrant families. That order has been the subject of litigation. But its unwinding doesn’t guarantee that restrictions on nonessential travel will be lifted.
Complicating the effort is the range of Covid-19-related travel restrictions that have become intertwined, raising the question internally: Can one set of limits be lifted without the other, or should it be all at once?
A White House official told CNN that interagency working groups with the European Union, United Kingdom, Canada and Mexico have met several times to discuss a range of considerations that are being taken into account to safely reopen travel, including the administration’s domestic vaccination effort and the risk posed by the Delta variant.
“While these groups have met a number of times, there are further discussions to be had before we can announce any next steps on travel reopening with any country,” the official said.
Homeland Security Secretary Alejandro Mayorkas issued a warning shot Tuesday to those considering migrating to the US. “Allow me to be clear: If you take to the sea, you will not come to the United States,” he said, emphasizing that any migrant, “regardless of their nationality,” will not be permitted to enter the US.
A Homeland Security spokesperson acknowledged to CNN “positive developments in recent weeks” but fell short of committing to when cross-border travel will fully resume. DHS is among the agencies in the White House’s expert working groups with Canada and Mexico “to identify the conditions under which restrictions may be eased safely and sustainably,” the spokesperson added.
Prime Minister Justin Trudeau, meanwhile, has flatly rejected the idea that nonessential visitors will soon be allowed to travel to Canada. “I can tell you right now that’s not going to happen for quite a while,” he said during a campaign-style stop in British Columbia last Thursday.
The Canada-US border remains closed to nonessential travel until at least July 21 and only Canadian citizens and residents are currently allowed to enter Canada by land, sea or air, unless the travelers are exempted in order to carry out essential work. The US-Mexico border also remains closed to nonessential travel until July 21. Mexico allows US travelers by air.
Thousands of people cross the US-Mexico border daily for work, school and other activities. Essential travel includes individuals traveling for medical purposes, attending school or engaged in trade, like truck drivers, among others.
The uncertainty over whether restrictions will be renewed or lifted has frustrated border communities desperate to return to normal.
“Our economy will not be reopened until our border is,” Gloria added.
Democratic Rep. Brian Higgins of New York also shared frustrations over the lack of transparency on the easing of restrictions in an interview with CNN last week.
“It defies logic. It defies science. It defies fact,” said Higgins, who serves as co-chair of the Northern Border Caucus, referring to the limitations on cross-border travel and stressing the links between border communities in the US and Canada.
Internally, US Customs and Border Protection officials are bracing for the eventual lifting of border restrictions, according to two agency officials. Some are concerned about staffing and whether there are enough agents and officers to process an increased number of individuals, one of the officials said.
Customs and Border Protection’s Office of Field Operations, which is responsible for border security at US ports of entry, has pulled back officers to the ports in anticipation of restrictions being lifted, another agency official said.