Saturday, May 18, 2024

18% of migrant families leaving Border Patrol custody tested positive for COVID-19

According to a document prepared to brief President Biden  more than 18% of migrant families and 20% of unaccompanied minors recently crossed the U.S. border tested positive for COVID-19 on leaving Border Patrol custody over the past 2-3 weeks.

Multiple flights scheduled to deport migrants had more than 25% of passengers test positive before departure, leading Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) to remove those migrants from the flights for quarantine in the U.S. The Department of Homeland Security document doesn’t give precise dates or say how many migrants were tested.

According to DHS officials, migrants aren’t tested for COVID-19 in Border Patrol custody unless they show symptoms, however, all are tested they leave Border Patrol Custody. Immigrants who are allowed to stay in the U.S. to claim asylum are given tests when they’re transferred to ICE, Health and Human Services or non-governmental organizations. Deportees who are scheduled to be put on planes out of the U.S. are tested for COVID-19 and other infectious diseases by ICE.

The document also recommends DHS provide more medical staffing at border processing facilities, citing one in the Rio Grande Valley where 3 EMTs were responsible for 3,000 migrants. Another DHS document prepared this week for the White House says high positivity rates are “straining the capacity of the NGOs and local governments that DHS currently partners with to care for them.” The document attributes the rise of COVID-19 among undocumented immigrants to “the highly transmissible Delta variant combined with lengthier stays in crowded [Customs and Border Protection] facilities.”

In a statement, a White House spokesperson said, “DHS and CBP takes its responsibility to prevent the spread of COVID-19 and other diseases very seriously. CBP provides migrants who can’t be expelled…or are awaiting processing with PPE from the moment they are taken into custody, and migrants are required to always keep masks on, including when they are transferred or in the process of being released. If anyone exhibits signs of illness in CBP custody, they are referred to local health systems for appropriate testing, diagnosis, isolation and treatment.”

The Biden administration is considering testing all migrants in Border Patrol custody but CBP, the Border Patrol custody, doesn’t have the testing capability. “As you can see, we’re already overwhelmed,” said Deputy Border Patrol Chief Raul Ortiz, who will soon take over as chief, while standing next to a bridge in Del Rio, Texas, where hundreds of migrants have been held at a time, sleeping on the ground, as border processing facilities are stretched 6 times past their capacity.