I understand that these are unprecedented times for just about everyone, and that this situation isn’t easy, no matter who you are — it’s tough for the government, it’s tough for hospital workers, it’s tough for airlines, it’s tough for… literally everyone.
Most reasonable people are trying to adapt best they can, but I can’t help but feel a special kind of disappointment seeing scenes from US immigration checkpoints.
Lots of people are flying from Europe to the US
At the moment we’re seeing lots of people flying back from Europe to the US. This comes because:
- As of Friday, President Trump started banning non-Americans who have been in the Schengen area of Europe in the past 14 days from entering the US
- As of Monday, President Trump is banning non-Americans who have been to the UK and Ireland in the past 14 days from entering the US
As you’d expect, the airports have been packed the past couple of days, and will likely continue to be packed for the next couple of days. It’s not just Europeans trying to come last minute, but also Americans returning out of panic.
What’s the scene like at US immigration?
Almost across the board I’m seeing reports of absolutely outrageous lines at US immigration checkpoints at airports. Not just an hour, but, like, several hours.
Reports at most airports suggest passengers aren’t being offered anything, while reports at other airports suggest passengers are being offered water and disinfectant wipes, given how bad the lines are.
#BREAKING: Passengers stuck in long lines for immigration at @DFWAirport tell us there are no offers of hand sanitizer, gloves, or masks from U.S. Customs / Immigration. Travelers say they’ve had no screenings of temp yet and no one following #coronavirus protocols. pic.twitter.com/9viCnWdncz
— Jason Whitely (@JasonWhitely) March 15, 2020
This is the scene at O’Hare airport. The traveler who took the photo said it’s a 6-hour wait for bags then on to customs for 2-4 more of waiting in shoulder-to-shoulder crowds. Police are handing out water and disinfectant wipes. @fly2ohare #ord #coronavirus #COVID19 pic.twitter.com/UTx9E0nj1s
— Brooke Geiger McDonald (@BrookeGMcDonald) March 15, 2020
What could possibly go wrong with thousands of people being inches apart for hours on end while returning from “hotspots,” as Trump describes it?!
And here’s the craziest part — you might think that the lines are this long because they’re thoroughly screening every passenger, assessing medical conditions, etc.
Nope. Virtually all the reports I see suggest that US passport holders aren’t being asked any health questions, aren’t being reminded that they should self quarantine, and are basically just being waved through (after waiting for hours).
I get this is tough on everyone. But it’s maddening to not only see immigration lines that are hours long (so much for social distancing), but on top of that to hear that apparently no sort of screening or questioning is being done on Americans who return to the US, Americans aren’t being advised of the precautions they need to take, etc.
If a Europe travel ban was going to be added, then it seems like they should have thought through the logistics of the panic that would create, because based on the pictures we’re seeing at immigration checkpoints, it sure seems to me like this could be making things even worse. Wouldn’t it have been smarter to add a gradual ban and cap the number of flights so that immigration facilities would be equipped to handle the situation?
(Note: The featured image is from Cancun Airport a few weeks ago, so it’s not the US, but was a similar story)