GOP says it's time to open everything back up — except the border


Rep. Chip Roy says his House resolution will help 'override this administration's reckless policies.'

House Republicans are pushing to keep in place indefinitely emergency border restrictions issued by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention under Donald Trump, citing as their reason the ongoing "COVID-19 pandemic." But the same lawmakers are also demanding the immediate reopening of schools, businesses, and the rest of the U.S. economy.

On Tuesday, Rep. Chip Roy of Texas announced a discharge petition, a procedural maneuver to move the bill from committee to the floor for a vote, for H.R. 471, the Protecting Americans from Unnecessary Spread upon Entry from COVID–19 Act of 2021 (PAUSE Act), introduced by New Mexico Rep. Yvette Herrell and 25 GOP co-sponsors on Jan. 25.

H.R. 471 would force President Joe Biden's administration to fully reinstate the U.S. Title 42 policy under which immigrants who could potentially have been exposed to the coronavirus are immediately expelled from the country.

"What remaining enforcement the administration has left in place is the one thing standing between the current crisis — as bad as it is — and a full-scale rush on our southern border," Roy said in the press release announcing House Resolution 216 on forcing the vote. "With Congresswoman Herrell's legislation and this discharge petition, Congress has the power to override this administration's reckless policies now and prevent this crisis from getting worse."

"Title 42 border health protections may be the only thing keeping Biden's border crisis from becoming a full-blown catastrophe," Herrell said. "Congress must act to ensure Border Patrol keeps their authority to quickly expel migrants who have or may have been exposed to COVID-19."”

Trump, who ran for president on an expressly anti-immigrant platform in 2016, and his adviser Stephen Miller seized upon the pandemic as an excuse to shut the borders to migrants, including children and others seeking asylum, despite public health officials' questioning the move's legitimacy.

Biden's departments of Health and Human Services and Homeland Security have the authority to alter those rules. The PAUSE Act would require them to keep them in place until the pandemic ends.

But while they are citing the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic as a pretext for keeping immigrants out, House Republicans have repeatedly demanded other restrictions aimed at preventing the spread of the coronavirus be immediately lifted.

House Minority Whip Steve Scalise complained last May that Congress should be "leading the country and showing how to safely reopen."

For months, House Republicans have cited "science" to insist that it is "time to reopen our schools."

Last June, Roy joined the right-wing Texas Public Policy Foundation for an event called "Reopening America with Chip Roy," during which he and the moderator examined "dangerous examples of government officials gone power-crazy, and how Texans can draw a line in the sand" on COVID-19 safety restrictions.

"Let America open," Roy urged in an op-ed published in the Washington Examiner that month. He said during an interview with an NBC affiliate in San Antonio on June 11 of that year, "We have to have our economy up and running and get back out there, have schools open in the fall, and figure out how we can keep moving forward and protect ourselves."

Early in the pandemic, Herrell too called for an end to restrictions and for an immediate reopening of the economy: "What they need right now is the green light to reopen safely," she said during a congressional primary debate in May 2020.

While the number of new cases is down significantly since a spike in the final months of Trump's tenure, the nation continues to see tens of thousands of new positive coronavirus tests daily.

Roy and Herrell will need to collect the signatures of a majority of their House colleagues to bring the bill to the floor, an unlikely challenge given that it so far has just 81 signers — all of them Republicans. Even if it does move to the Senate, it can be blocked by Majority Leader Chuck Schumer.

Published with permission of The American Independent Foundation.