President Trump in the Oval Office on March 12, 2020, the day after announcing a ban on Europeans entering the U.S. to prevent the spread of coronavirus.

President Trump in the Oval Office on March 12, 2020, the day after announcing a ban on Europeans entering the U.S. to prevent the spread of coronavirus. Evan Vucci/AP

Federal Agencies Don't Yet Have a Plan to Implement Trump's Europe Travel Ban

The guidance is coming soon, an official said. It goes into effect Friday evening.

The Trump administration has not yet delivered implementation guidance to employees who will be on the frontlines of enforcing the president’s new widespread travel restrictions, creating uncertainty for exactly how agencies will stop most Europeans from entering the country. 

The ban, which Trump announced Wednesday in an effort to limit new cases of the novel coronavirus from spreading in the United States, will prohibit non-U.S. citizens or permanent residents who have resided or traveled to 36 European countries from entering the country, with limited exceptions. Trump tasked Secretary of State Mike Pompeo with promulgating implementation regarding the issuance of visas, and Homeland Security Acting Secretary Chad Wolf with doing the same for the entry of aliens. Trump said State, DHS and the Transportation Department should ensure impacted individuals do not board a plane destined for the United States. 

A Homeland Security spokesman said Thursday afternoon the department would “issue supplemental guidance in the next day.” A union official representing frontline employees involved with the implementation said that with previous orders issued by Trump, instructions went out during morning muster on the day the new policy took effect and the same would likely be true in the current case. The travel restrictions go into effect Friday night. 

A spokesman for Customs and Border Protection, the Homeland Security Department component that screens individuals at airports and other ports of entry, deferred all questions to DHS. Trump specifically said DHS should enforce his proclamation with security at and between ports of entry, and anyone found to have violated it should be deported. The State Department did not respond to a request for additional information. 

Trump on Thursday confirmed he gave little notice to European allies before making his announcement, saying he quickly made an announcement after making up his mind. 

“We had to make a decision and I didn’t want to take time,” Trump said.

Previous Trump policy pronouncements issued before agencies have had time to prepare for implementation have led to widespread confusion and uncertainty. Trump’s original travel ban announced in early 2017 created chaos at airports and subsequent admissions from administration officials that DHS, State and the Justice Department were not aligned on the rollout. Trump’s “zero tolerance” policy that led to family separations at the border similarly created confusion, with officials later telling Congress and investigators they were caught off guard by the change and were told not to plan for it

Trump has also upended asylum laws, which sparked confusion for asylum offices and immigration judges. One officer told Government Executive the workforce did not receive any guidance to implement that new policy until a day after it was announced publicly.