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COVID-19: Current Travel Restrictions and

Quarantine Measures

March 5, 2020
The United States, along with many countries, is responding to an outbreak of a respiratory disease, now
referred to as COVID-19, which is caused by a novel coronavirus first detected in mainland China's
Hubei Province in late 2019. Cases of COVID-19 have now been detected in several countries, including
the United States.
To date, the federal government has taken two key actions to deter persons with suspected COVID- 19
infection from entering the country or spreading the virus to persons within the United States. First, the
federal government has restricted many non-U.S. nationals (aliens) who recently travelled to mainland
China or Iran from entering the United States. Second, the federal government has imposed a quarantine
requirement on all persons entering the United States, regardless of citizenship status, who have recently
been to mainland China. This Legal Sidebar examines the legal authorities underlying these actions, as
well as possible legal challenges to their use.

Entry Restrictions
To deter the entry of aliens into the United States who may have been exposed to COVID- 19, President
Trump has invoked his authority over alien entry under Section 212(t) of the Immigration and Nationality
Act (INA). That provision allows the President to suspend the entry of all aliens, or any class of aliens
whose entry he finds ... would be detrimental to the interests of the United States. Under this authority,
President Trump issued a Proclamation on January 31, 2020, generally suspending the entry of any
foreign national who had been in mainland China at some point within the prior 14 days. But lawful
permanent residents (LPRs), most immediate relatives of U.S. citizens and LPRs, and some other groups,
such as some airplane and ship crew members, are exempted from this restriction, as are those with prior
presence in Hong Kong or Macau. On February 29, 2020, President Trump issued a second Proclamation
that similarly suspends the entry of any foreign national who has been in Iran within the prior 14 days, in
addition to making minor amendments to the earlier Proclamation.
While this appears to be the first time Section 212(f) has been used to control the spread of a
communicable disease, the provision has been previously invoked to restrict foreign travelers from
coming into the United States. Perhaps most notably, Section 212(f) provided the legal basis for the
Trump Administration's imposition of the so-called travel ban on certain foreign nationals from
                                                               Congressional Research Service

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