The White House said Thursday that President Joe Biden is “not currently” in the process of implementing domestic travel restrictions on Florida, despite reports that the administration’s health officials were considering the idea.
“We are always considering what steps are necessary to keep the American people safe,” White House press secretary Jen Psaki said in response to a question from Breitbart News. “But we are not currently in the process of — no decisions have been made around additional public health measures that would delay or would change domestic travel considerations.”
The Miami Herald reported Wednesday that the Biden administration was considering domestic travel restrictions on states like Florida, which have looser coronavirus restrictions. The Herald report cited an anonymous White House official to float the idea:
“There are active conversations about what could help mitigate spread here, but we have to follow the data and what’s going to work. We did this with South Africa, we did this with Brazil, because we got clear guidance,” one White House official said.
“But we’re having conversations about anything that would help mitigate spread,” the official said, referring to discussions about new travel restrictions that could target the spread of the U.K. mutation in Florida.
In response to the report, Florida Governor Ron DeSantis–a Republican who has been critical of Democrat pushes for more coronavirus restrictions like mask mandates, lockdowns, and school closures–publicly criticized the idea in a press conference on Thursday.
“I think it would be unconstitutional, it would be unwise and it would be unjust and when you think about it,” DeSantis said, adding that “restricting the right of Americans to travel freely throughout our country” would be a “ridiculous” and “very damaging farce.”
DeSantis continued, “We will oppose it 100 percent, it would not be based in science, it would purely be a political attack against the people of Florida.”
The recent report that the Biden administration is considering restricting the travel of Floridians is completely absurd, especially when Biden allows illegal aliens to pour across our southern border. We won’t allow Floridians to be unfairly targeted for political purposes. pic.twitter.com/h47AVuof50
— Ron DeSantis (@GovRonDeSantis) February 11, 2021
Sen. Tom Cotton (R-AR) and several Republican senators also criticized the idea in a letter to Joe Biden, noting that it was absurd to restrict the movements of Americans when untested and unvaccinated migrants were allowed into the county.
“There is no legitimate justification for your administration being more restrictive with American citizens traveling within our country than illegal aliens who are rushing across our borders,” he wrote.
Now, though, the White House seems to be putting the idea to bed after initially floating it in the Miami Herald, with Psaki dismissing it from the podium on Thursday. But even if the Biden Administration tried this, it is unclear if the move would work–or be held up in court.
According to the Herald report, the federal government has never tried anything like this before and it may run afoul of previous U.S. Supreme Court rulings on a right for Americans to travel freely between states:
The U.S. Supreme Court has long held that Americans have a constitutional right to travel between states, including a 1941 case striking down California’s attempt to ban economic migrants from entering the state.
But federal officials do have powers to restrict travel between states during a pandemic, according to the Public Health Service Act that uses language from an 1890 law allowing the federal government to make and enforce regulations to prevent the spread of communicable diseases “from one State or possession into any other State or possession.”
The CDC typically only uses those powers on individuals who have tested positive or were likely exposed to a communicable disease, such as a “do not board” list for air travel for people with tuberculosis or measles. The agency has historically not applied the statute to wide swathes of the population who may be at risk.
Psaki’s dismissal of this as a serious option under consideration came just before she declined to answer whether migrants streaming across the U.S. border with Mexico should face mandatory coronavirus testing–something the Biden administration has not as of yet implemented. Psaki referred the question from Breitbart News to the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) which has not replied to a request for comment.