Border guard agents are facing a COVID-19 crisis as Biden is considering mitigating border guards

McAllen, Texas – Over 800 US Border Guard agents and their support staff in the Rio Grande Valley sector – nearly a quarter of the sector’s total workforce – Coronavirus Two agents have died of COVID-19 since the start of the pandemic, according to the sector’s head.

4 agents hospitalized For coronavirus, Including two of the respiratory organs. The U.S. Customs and Border Protection, which oversees the Border Guard, 9,039 COVID-19 cases Among its employees, including 32 deaths From a virus..

“We didn’t take a break” We Border Guard Rio Grande Valley Sector Chief Brian Hastings said in an interview with USA Today. “We were on the scene throughout this epidemic, trying to protect the country and the borders. Unfortunately, we were exposed. High exposure rates.”

Revelation Border guard Infectious diseases Rio Grande Valley – The busiest immigrant crossroads on the southwestern border – – The number of immigrants encountered by agents has risen to historically highs, and the Biden administration has Title 42 Program, A policy of the Trump era, allows agents to expel immigrants to Mexico quickly and prevent the spread of the disease.

According to statistics released Friday by the Customs and Border Protection, agents encountered 188,829 immigrants along the southwestern border in June, maintaining a pace above the annual highs reached in 2000. About a quarter of those migrants were recurring travelers, many of whom were expelled under Title 42 and attempted to re-enter the country.

Immigrant advocates argue that the policy puts immigrants in dangerous Mexican border towns and hampers their right to seek asylum in the United States.Since the policy came into effect in March 2020, border guard agents have been 845,000 immigrants Under title 42, According to government statistics.

A June report Human Rights First, a Newyork-based nonprofit organization, has aggregated 3,250 abductions, rapes and other attacks on asylum seekers on the Mexican side of the border since President Joe Biden took office in January. did.Last month, 109 advocates went to Biden letter He urged his administration to end Title 42.

Joanna Williams, Executive Director of the Arizona-based advocacy group Kino Border Initiative, said: Access to asylum and process asylum seekers at the point of entry. “

Border guards after the Tamaulipas government in northern Mexico advised U.S. authorities not to accept women and children under the age of seven this year In the Rio Grande Valley sector Started releasing family to America to wait their Immigration hearing, Hastings said. Unaccompanied children are temporarily detained and placed under the control of the US Department of Health and Human Services.Most single adults will be returned to Mexico Under the policy..

According to Hastings, many migrants arrive uncovered and pose a risk for agents to process and protect them. Further alarm: This week, Mexico’s coronavirus infection increased by 29% compared to the previous week.

Mexican officials in Tamaulipas and Matamoros reported to Hastings that their hospital was full of coronavirus patients, he said. About one-fifth of Mexicans are fully vaccinated, compared to almost half of US residents.

Officials in Hidalgo County, Texas, including McAllen, warned this week that cases and hospitalizations for COVID-19 are increasing, especially among unvaccinated residents.

“We have been very worried about COVID,” Hastings said. “I had a hard time with COVID.”

Border guard agents are intercepting migrants at the scene Between ports of entry Slide gloves and masks before processing them and provide immigrants with paper masks. The large number of people you come across creates anxiety among agents.

This year, the sector encountered more than 359,000 migrants, according to Hastings. This is more than any other sector along the southwestern border.

“Our numbers are and will continue to grow,” said border guard agent Jesse Moreno, who helped arrest three migrants trying to travel to the United States without proper documentation. I said right after.

Hastings said he was particularly worried about the outbreak in his sector because of how far his containment facility was. Immigrants are packed into containment pens and agents are tasked with crowding them. Facilities in this sector, including nine stations and shelters in nearby Donna, Texas, are designed to accommodate approximately 1,200 migrants. As of Tuesday, the agent had detained more than 3,000 migrants, he said.

Approximately 47% of his agents are assigned to transport, monitor and process detained migrants and are in close proximity to potential viral carriers, he said.

According to Hastings, if Title 42 is canceled, the number of single adults arriving at the border and overwhelming the detention facilities in his department is expected to skyrocket.

“We see growing anxiety and expulsion,” he said. “I am very worried that Title 42 will be gone.”

Contribution: Associated Press

Follow Jervis on Twitter: @MrRJervis.

This article was originally published in USA TODAY: Rio Grande Valley border guard agents face daily COVID-19 risk

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