Department of Homeland Security Secretary Alejandro Mayorkas appeared to admit on Monday that a large number of the migrants continuing to stream illegally into the U.S. are infected with the very contagious delta variant of COVID-19.
In a virtual Immigration Law and Policy Conference, Mayorkas said that the “rate of illness” of migrants encountered along the southwestern border in recent weeks was approaching 20 percent.
“What I didn’t expect was the tragic rise of the delta variant,” he said. “And we took a step back by reason of that. I did not expect to be in late September where we are.”
Mayorkas went on to say that roughly one in five migrants being encountered are experiencing an “illness,” though it appears he is talking about COVID-19.
“We are confronted with a population of people that, as a general matter, that have a rate of illness of approximately 20 percent,” he said, the Daily Mail reported. “When one is speaking of 7,000 or 7,500 people encountered at the border every day, if one takes a look at that system, it is not built for that in a COVID environment where isolation is required.”
Mayorkas went on to claim that many migrants have endured a “level of violence” necessary to travel from Latin America to get to the United States due to soured economic conditions wrought by the pandemic. That includes Haiti, Mayorkas said, which experienced a large earthquake last month in the midst of unstable political conditions that resulted in the country’s prime minister being assassinated earlier this summer.
Mayorkas reportedly did not explain how he arrived at the 20-percent illness figure; he has repeatedly stated in the past that the agencies he leads under DHS don’t have the ability to test every migrant encountered and instead the department relies heavily on state and local governments for that kind of assistance.
On Friday, the secretary said his agencies also did not test the more than 15,000 migrants who gathered and camped underneath an international bridge near Del Rio, Texas, last week.
“We did not test that population of individuals. We do not know, I do not know, I should say if I may be perfectly accurate, I do not know if anyone was sick with COVID,” he said. “We certainly had some people get sick, not with COVID to my knowledge and we addressed their illnesses.”
Republicans have repeatedly blasted Mayorkas and President Joe Biden over the reintroduction of so-called “catch-and-release,” a policy whereby most migrants encountered illegally at the U.S. border are released into the interior of the country and told to appear for an immigration hearing at a later date, often years away, especially during the ongoing COVID pandemic. On Tuesday, Florida filed suit against the administration over the reintroduction of the policy after it was ended under former President Donald Trump.
Those concerns were heightened again last week when reports said the Biden administration was releasing a large number of Haitians into the U.S.
To that point, Trump told Fox Digital that tens of thousands of migrants were being allowed into the country under Biden “with no vetting, checking or even minimal understanding of who they are.”
“Some are very sick with extremely contagious diseases, even worse than the China Virus. They are not masked or mandated, but just let free to roam all over our country and affect what was just a year ago a great nation,” he added.
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