Over 100 illegal immigrants released into Texas since late January have tested positive for the coronavirus following their arrival, according to officials at the U.S.-Mexico border.
Felipe Romero, a spokesman for the border town of Brownsville, Texas, told Fox News on Wednesday that 108 migrants tested positive for COVID-19, representing 6.3 percent of the migrants who have been tested at the city’s main bus station.
Brownsville started administering rapid tests at the bus station, where migrant families are released by the Border Patrol, on Jan. 25.
The city does not have the authority to prevent people who have tested positive for the virus from traveling, but officials are advising them to quarantine and follow the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention guidelines.
“The City of Brownsville continues to follow all guidelines provided by the CDC and DSHS for Covid-19. The migrants who test positive at the B-Metro facility are advised of quarantine procedures and are asked to socially distance,” Romero said in an emailed statement to NBC News.
“There are several NGOs providing resources to a positive case. For example, organizations help with quarantine either in a shelter or at [a] hotel.”
“A number of migrants seeking asylum and released by Border Patrol have tested positive to Covid-19 tests in Brownsville, Texas. Some plan to continue their journey to other cities and states.”https://t.co/7qbRkmweLA
— Steven Cheung (@CaliforniaPanda) March 3, 2021
The Biden administration told Fox News that it was aware of individuals continuing to travel despite positive tests and being told to quarantine, but said the guidance remains for people to isolate.
According to NBC News, migrant families who tested positive told Noticias Telemundo Investiga they were waiting to go to destinations that included North Carolina, Maryland and New Jersey.
“Right now we were tested for COVID and they separated about eight of us because we were positive,” Miriam Izaguirre, a 35-year-old asylum-seeker from Honduras, said.
Izaguirre was waiting with her young son for a bus to Houston, according to NBC News.
Eva Orellana, a 29-year-old from Honduras who came to the U.S. with her 3-year-old daughter and tested positive, said she didn’t feel anything and was going to take a bus to North Carolina.
Migrants reportedly were not provided with documentation of their positive test results and were simply told to wait in a different area.
Bus drivers are not allowed to ask passengers for proof or coronavirus test results before they board, according to Martín Fernández, who works with Omnibus Express in Brownsville.
President Joe Biden issued an executive order in February revoking predecessor Donald Trump’s memorandum of April 6, 2018, that ended “catch and release” at the border — the Obama administration practice of holding immigrants as they enter the U.S. and then releasing them back into U.S. cities.
The Biden policy allows migrants to stay in the United States while they wait for their immigration proceedings to take place, KXAN-TV reported.
Secretary of Homeland Security Alejandro Mayorkas has been tasked to work with the secretary of state, the attorney general and the CDC director to “promptly consider a phased strategy for the safe and orderly entry into the United States, consistent with public health and safety and capacity constraints,” according to the executive orders.
“CBP has seen a steady increase in border encounters since April 2020, which, aggravated by COVID-19 restrictions and social distancing guidelines, has caused some facilities to reach maximum safe holding capacity,” Rod Kise, public affairs officer for U.S. Customs and Border Protection, said at the time, according to Fox News.
“Per longstanding practice, when long-term holding solutions aren’t possible, some migrants will be processed for removal, provided a Notice to Appear, and released into the U.S. to await a future immigration hearing,” Kise said.
“As the administration reviews the current immigration process, balancing it against the ongoing pandemic, we will continue to use all current authorities to avoid keeping individuals in a congregate setting for any length of time.”
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