As noted in a prior client alert, on Friday, March 20, 2020, the secretary of homeland security began to temporarily limit the travel of individuals from Canada and Mexico into the United States at land ports of entry, limiting travel to "essential travel." The temporary restrictions were in effect until April 20, 2020. Homeland Security has ordered that they remain in effect through May 20, 2020.
In making this decision, the notice explains that the secretary is monitoring the COVID-19 pandemic and response. As of April 19, the notice cites over 2.2 million confirmed cases globally, with over 152,000 confirmed deaths. Of these, it cites over 720,000 confirmed cases in the United States, over 32,000 in Canada, and over 6,800 in Mexico.
This notice is separate and apart from the president's recent announcement in the last few days regarding immigration, where he announced on Twitter a decision to suspend immigration as a move to protect U.S. jobs. That decision is expected to be outlined in an executive order that is expected initially to be in effect for 60 days. At the time of this writing, that order has not been issued, but it is expected to block green card recipients but continue to allow temporary workers on nonimmigrant visas to enter, such as seasonal farm laborers.
In the redux notice regarding limits on land travel from Canada and Mexico, the term "essential travel" has not changed and continues to include:
- U.S. citizens and lawful permanent residents returning to the United States;
- Individuals traveling for medical purposes (e.g., to receive medical treatment in the United States);
- Individuals traveling to attend educational institutions;
- Individuals traveling to work in the United States (e.g., individuals working in the farming or agriculture industry who must travel between the United States and Mexico in furtherance of such work);
- Individuals traveling for emergency response and public health purposes (e.g., government officials or emergency responders entering the United States to support federal, state, local, tribal, or territorial government efforts to respond to COVID-19 or other emergencies);
- Individuals engaged in lawful cross-border trade (e.g., truck drivers supporting the movement of cargo between the United States and Canada/Mexico);
- Individuals engaged in official government travel or diplomatic travel;
- Members of the U.S. Armed Forces, and the spouses and children of members of the U.S. Armed Forces, returning to the United States; and
- Individuals engaged in military-related travel or operations.
The following travel again does not fall within the definition of "essential travel":
- Individuals traveling for tourism purposes (e.g., sightseeing, recreation, gambling, or attending cultural events).
Finally, the notice continues the prior practice of not applying the travel restrictions to air, freight rail, or sea travel, but it does apply to passenger rail and ferry travel between the United States and Canada/Mexico.