A huge surge in illegal immigrant minors is prompting a health emergency on the southern border and surrounding communities, igniting “grave concern” among federal lawmakers who are calling on the Biden administration to “prevent the impeding catastrophe.” In a letter to Homeland Security Secretary Alejandro Mayorkas more than a dozen members of congress who sit on various House committees—including civil rights, national security, and the environment—say they are particularly concerned that the influx could soon lead to a health crisis that may cause widespread COVID-19 infections and fatalities. Additionally, a Latino congressman from south Texas is urging the administration to “prevent further devastation of border communities” by addressing the “influx of Central American migrants at the U.S.-Mexico border.”
The government classifies the young migrants as Unaccompanied Alien Children (UAC) and in January there was a 64% increase over the same one-month period last year, according to Border Patrol figures. The data shows that two busy Texas sectors—Big Bend and Del Rio—saw the biggest increase in UAC traffic over the same one-month period in 2020, 141% and 122% respectively. Under federal law the Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) takes custody of UAC, identified as illegal immigrants under the age of 18, and must provide care for them. HHS funds and oversees around 170 state-licensed care facilities to house the minors when they arrive from foreign countries south of the border.
There are approximately 4,020 illegal alien minors in HHS care, according to recent agency figures. American taxpayers provide them with an array of services including classroom education, mental and medical health care, legal counsel, and a variety of recreational activities. The overwhelming majority of the migrants—72%—are not children but rather young adults or adolescents 15 to 17 years old, government records show. Most of the youths are from Guatemala and Honduras and 68% are male, which has tremendously boosted gang recruitment in this country. Federal authorities have for years confirmed that the nation’s most violent street gangs—including the Mara Salvatrucha (MS-13)—recruit new members at U.S. shelters housing UAC.
Health issues have also been a serious concern long before COVID-19, when the Obama administration allowed tens of thousands of UAC to enter the U.S. Back in 2014, Judicial Watch reported that the hordes of illegal immigrant minors brought in serious diseases, including swine flu, dengue fever and possibly Ebola. At the time, a congressman who is also a medical doctor alerted the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) that the UAC were importing infectious diseases considered to be largely eradicated in this country. Four years later, the infamous Central American caravan posed an equally serious public health threat, bringing dangerous diseases such as extremely drug resistant strands of tuberculosis, dengue, and chikungunya. By 2019, the Border Patrol admitted it was getting slammed with illegal immigrants plagued by “serious illnesses,” including tuberculosis, influenza, and pneumonia. Federal agents disclosed at the time that they were referring 50 illegal aliens a day for urgent medical care.
COVID-19 only adds to the already dire situation. In their letter to Mayorkas the congressional delegation points out that the increasing number of UAC illegally crossing the border will soon overwhelm facilities in the middle of a global pandemic, forcing Customs and Border Protection (CBP) to release unlawfully present individuals into the U.S. “This surge also has the capability to cause a COVID-19 outbreak at ports of entry and other CBP facilities, which threatens the health of CBP personnel and could result in the temporary closures of ports of entry,” the legislators write. “Such closures would greatly impact commerce and hamper the United States’ economic recovery. The increase in illegal immigration at the southern border presents a risk not only to Border Patrol agents apprehending migrants who illegally cross the border, but also to those communities into which those individuals will relocate—likely leading to widespread COVID-19 infection and fatalities.”
In his plea to the administration, the Latino congressman from south Texas, Democrat Vicente Gonzalez, writes that migrant caravans approaching the southern border will “overwhelm our many unvaccinated” federal agents and “put our frontline workers at greater risk during the COVID-19 pandemic.” The lawmaker, in his second term, reminds the Biden administration that border communities in south Texas districts like the one he represents, continue to be devastated by the COVID-10 pandemic. “A disorderly rushing of our border is not acceptable,” Gonzalez writes.