WASHINGTON, DC.— Congressmen called on the Secretary of the United States Department of Homeland Security (DHS), Alejandro Mayorkas, to prioritize the health and safety of border agents and border communities amid an increase in COVID- 19 in the Rio Grande Valley.
The increase in infections has resulted in the closure of Catholic Charities, a shelter for migrants, and in this area about 70 border agents from the Rio Grande Valley sector (RGV) and 17 border agents from the Laredo sector, tested positive for COVID-19 .
Additionally, 27 percent of unaccompanied children deported this week and Brownsville experienced a 15 percent positivity rate.
The Border Patrol is also sending immigrants directly to the McAllen COVID-19 testing site.
High positivity rates and NGO closures come as the Rio Grande Valley has seen a flood of migrants, a 478 percent increase in encounters in June 2021 compared to June 2020. Just last week it saw almost 20,000 “encounters” –detentions and releases in shelters in the Rio Grande Valley– which is added to the more than a million total “encounters” so far this year and 330,000 have occurred in Texas , in the RGV.
“The COVID-19 pandemic has caused many challenges across the country. Border communities face particular challenges due to the influx of migrants arriving every day.
“The DHS secretary must prioritize the health and safety of border agents and communities to assist them in this public health emergency,” said Congressman Henry Cuéllar.
“These agents are the epitome of what the United States Border Patrol stands for… While we are extremely fortunate for the vaccine that has saved many lives, we must prioritize the health and well-being of our officers in border communities.”
In Laredo, Texas, the Holding Institute migrant shelter has taken in hundreds of migrants and is preparing to receive more. The shelter, already being saturated, had a break due to the disaster declaration signed by the Webb County judge, which allowed for seven days not to receive more needy immigrants, there are currently 46 positive individuals in quarantine of the 326 reported by the city of Laredo.
Executive Director Pastor Mike Smith stated that no migrants are hospitalized and that migrants are categorically not the cause of the current new wave of COVID-19 affecting the region.