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Borders Against Viruses

By Lew Jan Olowski

The world will defeat coronavirus, thanks largely to border enforcement.

Just as social distancing works in your community—reducing opportunities for the virus to jump from person to person—so does social distancing work at the border.

President Trump imposed social distancing against the novel coronavirus disease from China, Covid-19, weeks before it even had a name, and before it even killed one person outside China.

In January, Trump ordered a travel ban prohibiting any foreigner who was recently in China from entering the United States. Otherwise, tens of thousands per day would have flooded in from China directly, and indirectly from China via other countries.

Trump’s decision saved American lives. Border enforcement delayed Covid-19 outbreaks. The first known death in the United States did not occur until a month after Trump’s ban.

Against a disease that grows exponentially, time is a priceless resource. All the money in the world cannot purchase it. Border enforcement can.

With weeks of extra time, consumers consolidated supplies. Producers predicted demand. Scientists studied solutions. Time gave America a margin-of-error, even allowing a mulligan for the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention when its Covid-19 testing kits failed.

Summertime heat and humidity might contain Covid-19. Drugs may stop it. Whenever that happens, no matter the casualties Covid-19 ultimately inflicts, countless more Americans would have suffered if border enforcement had not shortened Covid-19’s lethal window of opportunity.

Of course, border enforcement could have been stricter. More travelers could have been temperature-screened and scrutinized. Travelers from coronavirus-infected countries could have been banned sooner.

Let he who would have protected the border more aggressively cast the first stone.

Instead, many politicians criticized border enforcement as too severe. The day before Trump banned travelers from China, they called the policy stigmatic and discriminatory. The day Trump announced the ban, he was accused of xenophobia.

Even in February, Congress focused on an impeachment show trial instead of strengthening the border against Covid-19. They libeled Trump as the greater threat to national security.

Then the Trump administration warned of Covid-19’s imminent outbreak and asked Congress to appropriate billions in emergency funds to prepare for it.

But when Trump shut the border, one representative said it “probably doesn’t make sense” and could “create prejudices.” Another said it will “stoke racist and discriminatory responses.” Even now, Congress is pushing a “NO BAN Act” to thwart Trump’s travel bans.

Some anti-borders politicians would sacrifice their compatriots for tokenism and partisanship.

Others reversed themselves. They now follow Trump.

Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau banned travelers from all countries, exempting only diplomats and Americans. German Chancellor Angela Merkel banned everyone, except German citizens and workers. The European Union banned all nonessential visitors. More than a dozen countries on every continent announced travel bans this past weekend.

Addressing the Conservative Political Action Conference (CPAC), Ken Cuccinelli of the U.S. Department of Homeland Security described Trump’s “Citizens First” agenda of “common sense” immigration policy. Cuccinelli warned Covid-19 might overwhelm an under-resourced border, predicting Mexico’s “inevitable” outbreak by a month. Trump might soon seal the U.S.-Mexico border.

Common sense requires social distancing at the border against socially-transmitted diseases.

Covid-19 is not the last of its kind. It is not even the first. The Covid-19 virus is classified as SARS-Cov-2, named after SARS (Severe Acute Respiratory Syndrome): another novel coronavirus from China that caused an intercontinental pandemic. Covid-19 is merely a sequel.

Never-before-seen diseases will keep coming from developing countries simply because people exploit wilderness frontiers. Cultivating wild species risks zoonotic viral outbreaks: diseases that migrate from animals to humans. This occurs less in the urbanized United States.

Common sense requires immigration policy to protect national security in other ways, too. Criminal aliens deserve deportation, not sanctuary. Immigrants should finance their own health care and living expenses rather than taking advantage of taxpayer-funded welfare programs.

Common sense should govern cross-border trade. Free trade is not a suicide pact. Cargo, like people, can be a disease vector. And when pandemics are “Made In China,” then emergency supplies must be “Made In U.S.A.”

Accordingly, the World Trade Organization permits any country’s “action which it considers necessary for the protection of its essential security interests ... in time of war or other emergency in international relations.”

A global pandemic is by definition an “emergency in international relations” proving the necessity of an America First economic strategy.

We can kill pandemics. Common sense is all it takes.


Lew Jan Olowski is staff counsel at the Immigration Reform Law Institute, a public interest law firm working to defend the rights and interests of the American people from the negative effects of illegal migration.


Also published at: Lew J. Olowski, Borders Against Viruses, The Epoch Times, March 24, 2020.

IRLI is a supporting organization of the Federation for American Immigration Reform.

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