A man crossed the U.S.-Mexico border illegally to seek treatment for COVID-19 symptoms, the head of Customs and Border Protection (CBP) said Thursday.
“This week, [U.S. Border Patrol] agents encountered a Mexican national who after being apprehended, was showing symptoms of COVID-19,” CBP acting Commissioner Mark Morgan tweeted. “During his medical assessment he admitted to being exposed to COVID-19 and his deliberate intentions to illegally enter the US for medical care.”
The CBP chief highlighted the potential dangers the man put border agents in.
“Think about that—he intentionally exposed everyone around him including USBP agents, who were doing their sworn duty to protect the American people. We should all want to prevent this unnecessary spread of the infectious disease & stand in solidarity that border security matters,” Morgan said.
This is not the first time Border Patrol agents were potentially exposed to coronavirus. Agents apprehended a 31-year-old Indian national who attempted to illegally cross the southern border in April, according to the CBP.
The man was placed into quarantine after medical professionals observing him displaying “flu like symptoms,” the CBP said in a press release. He later tested positive for COVID-19, becoming the first known detainee in CBP custody to have coronavirus.
The Trump administration has taken dramatic steps to reduce the chance of viral spread at the country’s borders, declaring both the northern and southern borders closed to all non-essential traffic.
The temporary order only permits “essential” cross-border travel through Mexico and Canada. Such permitted travel pertains to medical and educational purposes, emergency response operations, public health services, and anyone engaged in “lawful cross-border trade.”
The order also strictly prohibits the entrance of any individual who does not have proper documentation or illegal entrants. All illegal aliens are ordered to be immediately turned back when possible.
The order has greatly reduced illegal crossings at the U.S.-Mexico border. Just over 16,7000 illegal aliens were spotted by agents in April, marking a 50% decline from the previous month and a roughly 85% drop from the same time last year.
Nearly all migrants are being immediately turned back as border agents are utilizing a new authority made available because of the immigration order.
CBP detention centers could be a potential hotbed for viral outbreak, but because of the steps the administration has taken to quickly turn back illegal entrants, these centers have reached historically low populations.
At the height of the border crisis, for example, the agency had more than 20,000 individuals in its custody. Amid the current coronavirus pandemic, that number had dropped to fewer than 100 in early April, according to Morgan.
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