The US is opening its borders — but aren’t the borders fairly open already?

On Balance with Leland Vittert

(NewsNation Now) — Starting next month, the U.S. will reopen its borders between Canada and Mexico for fully vaccinated travelers. The new rule ends a 19-month freeze due to the pandemic. Brandon Judd, president of the National Border Control Council, says the reopening is long overdue.

“We needed to lift this travel ban for an awfully long time now,” Judd said during Wednesday’s “On Balance” broadcast. And at any rate, he added, the COVID rules only applied to legal border crossings; illegal immigrants have continued to surge through the southern border, he noted.

Fully vaccinated U.S. citizens and permanent residents have been allowed into Canada since August, provided they have waited at least two weeks since getting their second vaccine dose and can show proof of a recent negative COVID-19 test. Mexico has not enforced COVID-19 entry procedures for land travelers.

Judd said this is why he believes the U.S. could have opened the borders much sooner.

“There were ways that you could allow nonessential travel that comes into the United States that benefits the economy.” he said. .

According to a report from The Wall Street Journal, economic woes from the pandemic are driving more middle-class people from countries including Brazil and Venezuela to join poor migrants seeking refuge in the U.S. Judd said this is unfair because that’s not what seeking asylum is about.

“You have to be seeking asylum because you fear persecution for political beliefs, or religious beliefs or you fear threats to your life because of torture or potential murder. That’s what asylum is for. It’s not for economic reasons.”

The new rules, however, only apply to legal entry. Those who enter illegally will still be subject to expulsion under a public health authority that allows for the swift removal of migrants before they can seek asylum.

Visitors who are traveling to U.S. from overseas will still need to show proof of vaccination and a negative COVID-19 test to enter the country. The Biden administration has not announced the specific date next month when the border will reopen.

The Associated Press and Reuters contributed to this report.

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