WASHINGTON, March 18 (Reuters) - U.S. President Donald Trump said on Wednesday his administration will use a health-focused statute to swiftly remove migrants or asylum seekers who cross the U.S.-Mexico border illegally as part of efforts to stem the spread of the coronavirus.
During a press conference at the White House, Trump confirmed that he would invoke a statute that allows the U.S. surgeon general to block people or goods from certain countries or places to prevent the spread of communicable diseases.
Trump said the move could happen as soon as Wednesday, but that his administration did not plan to fully close the border with Mexico.
“We’re not going to close it, but we are invoking a certain provision that will allow us great latitude as to what we do,” he said.
Reuters reported on Tuesday that the Trump administration officials were considering a plan to immediately return all migrants caught at the southwest border to Mexico, but such a move could provoke court challenges and may require cooperation from the Mexican government.
Trump did not provide details regarding the plan. The White House did not immediately respond to a request for comment. (Reporting by Ted Hesson; Editing by Cynthia Osterman)