Trump Administration’s Order to Close U.S. Southern Border Ran Counter to CDC Guidance

October 5, 2020

Washington, DC – Evidence has emerged that the Trump Administration’s March 2020 order closing the U.S.-Mexico border to refugee children and families ran counter to the conclusion by Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) scientists that the order served no public health interest.  Following the revelation, Kids in Need of Defense (KIND) is urging the Trump Administration to immediately lift this needless ban and once again begin lawfully processing children in need of safety.

“This ban was never about public health protection. It was always about politics,” said KIND President Wendy Young. “The revelation that CDC officials were forced by the White House to issue the order or be fired demonstrates just how far this Administration will go to avoid its legal and moral obligation to protect kids seeking safety in the United States.”

“We know that this senseless and cruel act has resulted in the expulsion of more than 8,800 unaccompanied refugee children to dangerous conditions, placing them at heightened risk of human trafficking, violence, and persecution. We also know that the media reports confirm what independent public health experts have emphasized from the beginning: there is simply no public health reason to shut out unaccompanied children who have a legal right to apply for humanitarian relief in the United States. Without delay, the Administration should rescind the order and resume processing children consistent with the law while observing evidence-based health protocols that uphold the safety of those children, government personnel, and the public at large.”

On March 20, 2020, the CDC issued a now-indefinite order shutting out unaccompanied children and asylum seekers from the United States. Denying refugee children their right to apply for humanitarian aid has been a goal of the Administration since 2017.  Unsuccessful in convincing Congress or the courts to allow for a change in the protective laws passed over a decade ago, the Administration tried to use the CDC to achieve its political goal. The CDC order violates the bipartisan Trafficking Victims Protection Reauthorization Act of 2008 (TVPRA) requiring the U.S. government to afford unaccompanied children, without exception, a full and fair opportunity to seek protection from the harms they escaped.

For over seven months, the Trump Administration has insisted that these expulsions and the underlying order are a necessary public health response, even as independent public health experts denounced those actions as lacking a public health rationale and made clear that the U.S. government is fully capable of processing unaccompanied children while also upholding public health and safety.

Simultaneously, the government put children in hotel rooms without appropriate care or supervision, and put children on deportation flights with COVID positive adults back to countries with very weak health care systems. These actions are further evidence that the border policies are not grounded in rational health concerns, but rather are tactics to achieve a political agenda.

“Any choice between protecting public health and safeguarding unaccompanied children is a false one – our nation can and must do both,” Young concluded.


Media Contact: Megan McKenna,, 202-631-9990