Vice President Mike Pence ordered to effectively seal the U.
S. borders, contradicting the nation’s top disease control agency’s scientists for lack of evidence that it would help slow down the coronavirus.
The order has caused nearly 150,000 children and adults to be expelled from the country.
The top doctor for Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, who oversees these types of orders, refused to comply with the directive citing that there is no valid public health reason to issue it.
Pence, who had taken over the Trump administration’s response to the growing pandemic, called CDC director Dr. Robert Redfield and told him to use the agency’s special legal authority in a pandemic in any way.
Redfield immediately ordered his senior staff to carry out the order, according to a former CDC official who spoke on condition of anonymity.
While the order covered the U.S. and Canada borders, it mostly affected the thousands of asylum seekers and immigrants arriving at the U.S.-Mexico border.
Meanwhile, public health experts urged the administration to instead focus on a national mask mandate, enforce social distancing and increase the number of contact tracers to track down people exposed to the virus.
However, President Donald Trump’s top aide Stephen Miller, who has been a vocal opponent of immigration, pushed for the expulsion order.
“That was a Stephen Miller special. He was all over that,” said former Pence top aide Olivia Troye, who coordinated the White House coronavirus task force.
She also said that the administration had placed politics above public health, and recently resigned in protest.
“There was a lot of pressure on DHS and CDC to push this forward,” she added.
Title 42 of the Public Health Service Act gives federal health officials specific powers to take extraordinary measures during a pandemic, to limit transmission of an infectious disease.
These powers include stopping the flow of immigration from countries with high numbers of confirmed cases.