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Tom Kertscher
By Tom Kertscher July 28, 2021

US-Mexico border not ‘wide open,’ most people trying to enter US are turned away

If Your Time is short

  • President Joe Biden has continued a policy — initiated by Donald Trump — to restrict Americans’ travel to Mexico, as a way to fight the spread of COVID-19. 

  • The Mexico border is not “wide open” for illegal immigration into the U.S. The vast majority of encounters result in U.S. immigration officials turning people away at the border.

A social media attack on President Joe Biden alleges a gaping contradiction at the Mexico border.

"The COVID delta variant is so deadly Biden is restricting travel for Americans into Mexico but is keeping the border wide open for illegal aliens to walk right into our country," the widely shared tweet claims.

The post was flagged as part of Facebook’s efforts to combat false news and misinformation on its News Feed. (Read more about our partnership with Facebook.)

The Biden administration is limiting Americans’ travel to Mexico, as well as to Canada, in an attempt to curb the spread of the coronavirus. It’s a continuation of a policy established by President Donald Trump.

But the Mexico border is not wide open for illegal immigration into the United States. The vast majority of encounters result in U.S. immigration officials turning people away at the border.

Travel restrictions started with Trump

The element of truth in this claim is that Biden has extended a Trump administration policy, with Mexico, on travel.

As the coronavirus outbreak began to take hold, the United States and Mexico announced on March 20, 2020, that they would prohibit for 30 days all "non-essential" travel, including travel "that is considered tourism or recreational in nature," across the border. The U.S. and Canada announced the same agreement the same day.

Both agreements have been extended monthly under Trump and Biden. In the most recent extension, announced July 21, Homeland Security cited the delta variant, which public health officials believe could be twice as contagious as the original strain of the virus.

Illegal immigration

The idea that the Mexico border is wide open for illegal immigration into the U.S. is wrong.

Featured Fact-check

In March, we rated False a claim that the border "is now open to anyone from anywhere in the world who wishes to enter our country." And in April, we rated False a claim that the U.S. is locked down and there’s "a wide open border." 

Thousands of people are arriving at the southern border on a monthly basis.

What are known as enforcement encounters at the southern border have risen each month since Biden took office — from 78,442 in January to 188,829 in June, according to U.S. Customs and Border Protection. Encounters data includes people who are placed in immigration proceedings and people who are quickly expelled.

Border apprehensions have gone up because people are attempting to cross multiple times and failing, said Nicole Hallett, a professor and director of the Immigrants’ Rights Clinic at the University of Chicago Law School. "Apprehensions have increased because of the strict COVID restrictions, not because restrictions have eased."

Most people trying to cross at the border are being turned away, under a March 2020 order by the Trump administration to curb the spread of COVID-19. The Biden administration is still enforcing that policy, although it’s exempting children who arrive alone, as well as some families.

Biden is also moving to limit border crossings in another way. Homeland Security announced July 26 that it would quickly turn back migrant families that immigration officials determine do not qualify for asylum during a fast-tracked screening process.

"It is simply not true that the border is ‘wide open’ for ‘illegal aliens’ to cross," Hallett said. "Customs and Border Protection apprehend individuals attempting to cross between border checkpoints. The border is more secure than ever before. Fewer people are able to cross illegally without being apprehended than at any time in the past."

Our ruling

Social media posts claimed that Biden "is restricting travel for Americans into Mexico, but is keeping the border wide open for illegal aliens to walk right into our country."

The tweet contains an element of truth, but ignores critical facts that would give a different impression. We rate it Mostly False.

Our Sources

Twitter post, July 26, 2021

Email, Nicole Hallett, professor and director of the Immigrants’ Rights Clinic at the University of Chicago Law School, July 28, 2021

U.S. Customs and Border Protection, "Southwest Land Border Encounters," July 16, 2021

PolitiFact, "Fox News’ Jeanine Pirro wrongly claims US border is ‘open to anyone from anywhere,’" March 23, 2021

PolitiFact, "The Biden administration is still enforcing that law, although it’s exempting children who arrive alone, as well as some families," April 15, 2021

Associated Press, "Virus prompts US and Mexico to restrict border travel," March 20, 2020

New York Times, "The U.S. reaffirms its land border restrictions as Canada relaxes its own. Mexico has none," July 21, 2021 

New York Times, "U.S. Can Expedite Removal of Migrant Families, Biden Administration Says," July 26, 2021

Reuters, "U.S. extends travel curbs at Canada, Mexico land borders through Aug. 21," July 21, 2021

U.S. Department of Homeland Security, "Joint Statement on US-Mexico Joint Initiative to Combat the COVID-19 Pandemic," March 20, 2020

U.S. Department of Homeland Security, "Joint Statement on US-Canada Joint Initiative: Temporary Restriction of Travelers Crossing the US-Canada Land Border for Non-Essential Purposes," March 20, 2020 

U.S. Department of Homeland Security, news release, July 26, 2021

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US-Mexico border not ‘wide open,’ most people trying to enter US are turned away

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