WASHINGTON, DC -- President Trump may allow border agents to stop Americans suspected of having coronavirus from returning to the U.S. from Mexico, the New York Times reported Monday afternoon.
The Trump administration has asked various federal agencies for their input on the proposed new rule within 24 hours, the Times indicated.
It was unclear how quickly the draft regulation might be finalized and put into place.
But if adopted, it would expand the authority of border officials during the pandemic - allowing them to deny both American citizens and legal residents re-entry into the U.S. as they seek to cross back from Mexico.
It would also mark the latest attempt by the administration to seal off the Mexican border, citing virus fears. In March, the administration invoked a public health law to swiftly remove migrants, including children, who are apprehended at the border. That action, including a series of other travel restrictions, has been extended over the course of the pandemic.
Previous travel restrictions imposed by the administration during the pandemic have excluded U.S. citizens and legal residents. For example, the U.S. limited non-essential travel at land ports of entry with Canada and Mexico. Americans cross the borders regularly for a range of reasons, including work, attending school, visiting family and tourism.
Any move targeting U.S. citizens and lawful permanent residents, in particular, is likely to face legal challenges. In the wake of the Times report Monday, the American Civil Liberties Union immediately dubbed the move "unconstitutional."
"The Trump administration has rolled out one border ban after another — most recently on children and asylum seekers — using Covid-19 as an excuse, while failing abysmally to get the virus under control in the United States," said Omar Jadwat, director of the ACLU's Immigrants' Rights Project, in a statement.
"The rumored order would be another grave error in a year that has already seen far too many," Jadwat added.
The U.S. outpaces other countries in coronavirus cases, including Mexico and Canada, which have 480,278 and 122,053 cases, respectively.
(The CNN wire contributed to this report).