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New York Times

COVID at the border: Immigrants have not been tested upon arrival in the United States

Dora Eglis Ramírez and Pavel Brigido Rivero left Cuba last year to seek asylum in the United States as the coronavirus spread throughout Latin America. They started trekking in Guyana and managed to cross eight countries, sleep on the bus and do a strange job without getting infected with the virus. Then they crossed the border into the United States. Signed up for a morning newsletter from a New York Times US Border Guard agent, intercepted them in Southern California at the end of last month, and transported the couple to a crowded Border Guard. They spent 10 days and nights in a cell full of Brazilians, Cubans, Ecuadorians and Indians. Libero, 45, was infected with the coronavirus and spent the next two weeks at a hotel with his healthy wife, along with about 200 other migrants who had been tested positive for the virus or were exposed to the infected. Spent in. “I was healthy until I was trapped,” he said. As some states began to reopen after the United States vaccinated more people and reduced infection rates, new because U.S. authorities were unable to test adult coronavirus immigrants at crowded border processing centers. Infection and public health potential are emerging. Officials and shelter operators warn even among immigrants who may have arrived healthy at American doors. More than 170,000 migrants crossed the border in March, many from countries still tackling high infection rates, but border guards have been detaining migrants in the United States for several days. We have not tested for coronavirus. Shows obvious symptoms. The government says there is not enough time and space to test immigrants on arrival. As a result, migrants undergo a basic medical examination, but the test is postponed until it is released to a local community group, city, or county. New arrivals are often trapped in tight spaces with dozens of strangers, sleeping side by side on a mat. floor. Unaccompanied children have been tested, but must have been detained for approximately three days, just before being loaded onto a bus or plane for transport to a government-run shelter. US officials say the challenge of testing all new arrivals when they were first arrested is insurmountable. According to the Department of Homeland Security, there have been no large cases of epidemics at US border facilities, and the overall number of cases is relatively small. Approximately 5% of all single adults and families tested after release after March gave positive results, but thousands of unaccompanied minors currently in custody, officials said. Of those, the proportion is about 12%. However, local officials and shelter operators said they were concerned that the actual number of infections could be much higher. In the Imperial Valley of California, where a Cuban couple was arrested, 15% of migrants released to the community by border guards between April 7 and 13 were virus-positive. This is three times the official average for California. social welfare. And some large shelter operators who go after migrant children are released from border processing say that one in five children in those facilities test positive on arrival. Told. Diego Piña Lopez, Program Manager at Casa Altas, a rest center for immigrants in Tucson, Arizona, said: Staff there perform rapid coronavirus testing on dozens of migrant families every day after being released by the border guard. Immigrants with positive results will be transferred to city-run shelters. Others spend a night or two at the rest center before flying or bus to destinations throughout the United States. Some of them may have been infected at a border guard facility and were not registered for inspection during the short time spent at the rest center, immigrant advocates warned that they were domestic The possibility of unknowingly exposing others when traveling to join friends and family elsewhere. Mark Lane, who runs a small humanitarian organization in San Diego, a minority humanitarian foundation, said: “Uber drivers, taxi drivers, and people like us, people who aren’t fully vaccinated, are exposed. Today I take two men released. John Modlin, the interim border guard commander of the Twson division, said he was in charge of handling each immigrant, including fingerprinting, collecting personal information, and conducting background checks. He said it took 90 minutes to 3 hours. He said it would take another 20 minutes to test the coronavirus and wait for the results. “That’s 20 minutes more than 1000 people,” Modlin said. “Border guards do not want to enter the business of testing and inoculation of people.” Dr. Pritesh Gandhi, Chief Medical Officer of the Department of Homeland Security, said “front end” due to “operational restrictions.” The medical team is working closely with nonprofits and local authorities to confirm that it is no longer able to test for viruses in the area. Immigrants are screened immediately and tested later. The strategy he said was beginning to show results in fewer people getting sick. “As soon as possible, we can do something about it, we will test it,” he said in an interview. “Therefore, there are restrictions. The question that public health operators have to ask is,” What is the earliest point you can make a difference? ” Some cities and counties have resisted having to carry out most of all coronavirus tests for adult immigrants. In El Paso, Texas, county judges, local Catholic bishops, and other regional leaders sent a letter to Homeland Security Secretary Alejandro Mallorcus, who tested immigration as “the ability of local governments and NGOs to work together. It exceeds. ” community. “Mayor Douglas J. Nichols of Yuma, Arizona, said migrants had been dropped off by the Immigration Bureau on the roadside and in parking lots without coronavirus testing before the local medical center took over the tests.” It’s completely crazy, “Nichols said. “It’s not a way to handle things during a pandemic.” Last week, Texas Attorney General Ken Paxton said that the federal government had tightly held potentially infected migrants under government control. We are encouraging the spread of COVID-19 at the border. ” In a statement, Paxton said President Joe Biden had indicated that he would “totally ignore the public health crisis” by “welcome and encourage mass gatherings” of migrants at border facilities. In some cities, contractors hired by Immigration Customs have begun conducting coronavirus tests on immigrants after their release from border guards, and have placed quarantine spaces in hotels for those who test positive. I am. The Biden administration continues to expel many who have entered the country without permission, using the Public Health Emergency Act first enacted by former President Donald Trump. However, the Mexican government has refused to regain families traveling with children under the age of seven along a wide area of ​​the Texas border. It also refused the return of migrants from outside Central America, representing more and more crossers. Many come from Ecuador and Brazil, and countries are still hit hard by the coronavirus. Immigrants themselves have expressed concern about spending a lot of time in densely populated areas after being arrested by US authorities. Brazilian Jemerson Kenner, who crossed the California border last month, tested positive for the coronavirus after spending four days at a crowded border guard station. “There must have been 100 men in the pavilion for about 20 people,” he said. When told that he was infected with the virus, he was sent to a hotel in Holtville, California, where about 100 Brazilians were quarantined along with infected Cubans, Ecuadorians, and immigrants from several Asian countries. Said it was done. “I’m really sick. Jesus, my throat was killing me,” said Kenner, 33, who received the drug from a non-profit organization operating in a hotel quarantine. I did. On April 12, after a negative test, he was allowed to head to Maryland, where construction work said he was waiting. Cindy Mendes, a Honduras girl who joined her U.S. mother across the border in February, said she tested positive for the coronavirus after being admitted to a processing center in Donna, Texas for two weeks. Over 700% of the designed capacity. “We were sleeping on the ground above each other,” she said. Homeland Security officials emphasized that there is no facility at border guard processing stations to test efforts, especially for children who must be separated by gender and age. Children are currently traveling to shelters by separate buses, depending on the status of COVID-19. This is an improvement over the last few months. Authorities are focusing on removing migrants from detention sooner, which is the key to reducing their exposure and the strategy is successful. Data released on Tuesday showed that the number of unaccompanied minors in custody fell by 80% last month. However, it can even be difficult to track immigrants who carry the coronavirus. Andrea Ludnick, a non-profit organization supporting a hotel for coronavirus quarantine in Brownsville, Texas, said many migrants who tested positive before the end of the segregation period. Said disappeared. “They want to leave, and when they notice,’Hey, I can take a taxi back from this hotel to the bus stop and get out of there,’ she said. Originally published in The New York Times © 2021 The New York Times Company