Friday, January 15th, 2021

Bipartisan lawmakers seek ports reopening plan

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A group of lawmakers recently forwarded correspondence to Acting Secretary of Homeland Security Chad Wolf, seeking insight regarding Department of Homeland Security (DHS) plans to reopen southern entry ports.

Sens. John Cornyn (R-TX) and Kyrsten Sinema (D-AZ) joined Reps. Henry Cuellar (D-TX), Will Hurd (R-TX), Vicente Gonzalez (D-TX), Michael McCaul (R-TX), and Ann Kirkpatrick (D-AZ) in sending the letter.

“We fully appreciate the difficult balance that DHS must strike between protecting its officers and the public against COVID-19 and facilitating the economic and social needs of border communities,” the legislators wrote. “However, DHS has provided little public insight into how it weighed the costs and benefits of these extended travel restrictions. We worry the longer lines at ports of entry and inability to social distance in pedestrian lanes may actually increase the risk of spreading COVID-19, and DHS has not provided sufficient information to show how they are mitigating these risks.”

The lawmakers maintain DHS has not publicly articulated a plan for returning to normal operations or established benchmarks to be reached before travel restrictions can be partially relaxed or completely lifted.

“While we understand that DHS is currently forced to adapt to a constantly-changing situation, all four Southwest border states—Texas, New Mexico, Arizona, and California—have developed phased reopening plans. DHS should develop the same type of plan to better provide local communities with a basic idea of what to expect in the coming months,” the legislators concluded.