The rate at which coronavirus-positive border crossers are arriving in the United States has “increased significantly,” according to President Joe Biden’s Department of Homeland Security (DHS).
David Shahoulian, DHS’s assistant secretary for border and immigration policy, admitted in a court brief filed this week that the agency has seen “significantly increased rates” of coronavirus-positive border crossers arriving at the U.S.-Mexico border, spurring “extremely worrisome” conditions at border facilities.
Shahoulian writes in the brief:
As explained in more detail below, the United States is currently encountering record numbers of noncitizens, including families, at the border. These encounter rates have strained DHS operations and caused border facilities to be filled beyond their normal operating capacity, impacting the ability to employ social distancing in these congregate settings. At the same time, DHS is also experiencing significantly increased rates of noncitizens testing positive for COVID19. In light of these and other considerations, enjoining the application of the CDC Order to families would exacerbate overcrowding at DHS facilities and create significant public health risks. [Emphasis added]
This risk has recently increased due to the recent spread of the highly transmissible COVID-19 Delta variant. The rates at which encountered noncitizens are testing positive for COVID-19 have increased significantly in recent weeks. And although the rate of infection among CBP officers had been declining, this rate recently began increasing again, even though the percentage of officers and agents who have been fully vaccinated has grown significantly since January. This has led to increasing numbers of CBP personnel being isolated and hospitalized. [Emphasis added]
Shahoulian also admits in the brief that as of August 1, the U.S. Border Patrol was nearly 400 percent overcapacity. Specifically, Border Patrol had nearly 18,000 border crossers in its custody despite a coronavirus-adjusted capacity limit for about 4,700 border crossers.
“These capacity figures are extremely worrisome,” Shahoulian writes.
The brief continues:
More specifically, the Border Patrol was over capacity in seven of its nine southwest border sectors. As of August 1, the RGV sector — which has been the epicenter of the current surge — was holding 10,002 noncitizens and was thus 783 percent over its COVID19 adjusted capacity of 1,278 and 287 percent over its normal, non-adjusted capacity of 3,485. Within RGV, noncitizen families and UCs are primarily transferred to a temporary processing facility in Donna, Texas in the RGV, which has a normal operating capacity of 1,625 and a COVID-19 adjusted capacity of 813 based on CDC recommended guidelines. Within nine days of this facility opening on February 9, 2021, it had already exceeded its normal non-COVID19 operating capacity with more than 1,000 noncitizens in custody. As of August 1, this facility was operating at 446 percent of its COVID-19 adjusted capacity, and 223 percent of its normal non-COVID-19 operating capacity, with 3,623 noncitizens in custody. [Emphasis added]
These capacity figures are extremely worrisome, particularly because of the continued spread of the highly transmissible Delta variant. Overcrowding challenges DHS’s ability to effectively execute many of its core public health mitigation and countermeasure activities. Additionally, higher rates of COVID-19 transmission within a DHS facility could quickly impede the Department’s ability to utilize that facility’s maximum capacity, further lowering the overall processing and holding capacity along the southwest border. Indeed, the Department’s operations have already been impacted by significantly increased positivity rates among individuals in its facilities, including families. [Emphasis added]
This week, city officials in McAllen, Texas revealed that the Biden administration has released more than 7,000 coronavirus-positive border crossers into their communities since February. In the last seven days, alone, the Biden administration released more than 1,500 coronavirus-positive border crossers in McAllen.
According to White House sources who spoke to the Washington Post, Biden is weighing a plan that would give border crossers the Johnson & Johnson vaccine before their release into the U.S. interior.
The latest data reveals that the Biden administration has released about 173,000 border crossers into the U.S. interior since he took office in late January. In addition, just in the month of July, nearly 15,000 Unaccompanied Alien Children (UACs) were released to sponsors across the U.S. Another 16,000 UACs remain in federal custody until they are released to sponsors.
Story cited here.