Many communities now have almost-empty roads and streets as a result of popular compliance governed by federal, state, and local stay-in-place mandates (usually called “executive orders”). These mandates typically promulgate generalized prohibitions, qualified by listed exceptions for “essential services” (or “essential activities”) and the like.1
In particular, for people in other countries who hope to be allowed to come (or return) to America, this has been a very disruptive and challenging time.2,3
Of course, we are not the first generation to face crisis-justified interferences with international travel.4 In times past, as well as now when a general mandate prohibits travel, valuable workaround opportunities can take the form of regulatory exceptions, exemptions, and waivers.1,3,4
Recently, this kind of challenge faces many travelers abroad. Recently, during mid-March, President Trump issued an executive order that prohibited the usual process of entry into the United States. This affects many travelers coming from 26 “open border” European nations (the Schengen Area), initially excepting Ireland and the United Kingdom from those new restrictions.3
The United States Government is unable to effectively evaluate and monitor all of the travelers continuing to arrive from the Schengen Area. The potential for undetected transmission of the virus by infected individuals seeking to enter the United States from the Schengen Area threatens the security of our transportation system and infrastructure and the national security. Given the importance of protecting persons within the United States…, I [now] … take action to restrict and suspend the entry into the United States, as immigrants or nonimmigrants, of all aliens who were physically present within the Schengen Area during the 14-day period preceding their entry or attempted entry into the United States.3
It wasn’t long before some travelers speculated on sneaky ways to evade the new travel restrictions, even though it was obvious that none of the several exemption categories fit them.3 One evasion idea was travel to England, which at that time was not generally closed for air travel to America, and to then go from there into America.2
The consequences of breaking the ban could be severe. "An alien who circumvents the application of this proclamation through fraud, willful misrepresentation of a material fact, or illegal entry shall be a priority for removal by the Department of Homeland Security," is the official statement from the White House. Airlines are going to be double checking passengers' recent movements and will be on the lookout for anyone trying to bypass the new rules, … [and] passengers will be required to fill out these details on their ESTA -- or Electronic System for Travel Authorization form. Lying on your ESTA form is a criminal offense.2
Of course, trying to use deceit to evade a law or ordinance or executive order is not a good or wise idea.6 Most folks already know that the government has many ways of tracking the truth. So, being honest is a good practice, as a matter of prudence if not for virtue’s sake.2,6
Times can be severely trying, and maybe even painful, but don’t forget that God is still there, managing the entire world and all of its moving parts—including each of us. And when He chooses to, He can and often does intervene to deliver providential results.2,4,5
1. E.g., “Executive Order GA-14” of Texas Governor Greg Abbott (Austin Texas: March 31, 2020), incorporating by reference definitions and categories in Version 2.0 of “Advisory Memorandum on Identification of Essential Critical Infrastructure Workers during COVID-19 Response” from the U.S. Department of Homeland Security (Cybersecurity & Infrastructure Security Agency). Washington, D.C. March 28, 2020.
2. Street, F. Europe Travel Ban: Will It Be Possible to Sneak into the U.S. via the U.K.? CNN Travel. Posted on cnn.com March 13, 2020, accessed April 2, 2020.
3. “For purposes of this proclamation, the Schengen Area comprises 26 European states: Austria, Belgium, Czech Republic, Denmark, Estonia, Finland, France, Germany, Greece, Hungary, Iceland, Italy, Latvia, Liechtenstein, Lithuania, Luxembourg, Malta, Netherlands, Norway, Poland, Portugal, Slovakia, Slovenia, Spain, Sweden, and Switzerland. The Schengen Area currently has the largest number of confirmed COVID-19 cases outside of the People’s Republic of China. As of March 11, 2020, the number of cases in the 26 Schengen Area countries is 17,442, with 711 deaths, and shows high continuous growth in infection rates. … as of March 9, 2020, the Schengen Area has exported 201 COVID-19 cases to 53 countries. Moreover, the free flow of people between the Schengen Area countries makes the task of managing the spread of the virus difficult. … [promulgated] this eleventh day of March, in the year of our Lord two thousand twenty.” Proclamation: Suspension of Entry as Immigrants and Nonimmigrants of Certain Additional Persons who Pose a Risk of Transmitting 2019 Novel Coronavirus. Executive Order of President Donald J. Trump. Washington, D.C. March 11, 2020.
4. Johnson, J. J. S. 2018. Volksdeutsche by the Dozen, Part Eight: Refugees in Austria, Fleeing Post-WWII Europe for America: The Jakob & Katrina Webel Family Journey to a New Home. Journal of the German-Texan Heritage Society. 40(1):38-54, especially 50-51. This family history illustrates God’s providences in protecting and transplanting refugees who told the truth when seeking refuge; repeatedly they were deemed exceptions from general rules, due to providential exemptions or to merciful officials’ waivers.
5. Romans 8:28; Genesis 50:20; 2 Timothy 1:7.
6. Romans 13:5; Ephesians 4:25; Numbers 32:23.
*Dr. Johnson is Associate Professor of Apologetics and Chief Academic Officer at the Institute for Creation Research.