(The Center Square) – Democratic U.S. Rep. Henry Cuellar is urging President Joe Biden to put a “pause” on accepting or releasing those who enter the U.S. illegally, citing the risk of spreading COVID-19, after news reports reveal that those who have tested positive are being released into local Texas border communities.
“It’s not fair to local communities, people being released there that might have COVID-19,” Cueller told Fox News. “What I’m asking of the Biden administration is to do a pause. Do a pause. They need to prioritize border communities, they need to prioritize the men and women of DHS.”
Texas Gov. Greg Abbott on Wednesday issued an executive order restricting ground transportation of illegal immigrants who have tested positive for COVID-19 or could be carrying it after having passed through Mexico, where a third wave of the coronavirus is spreading. The Texas Department of Public Safety has been ordered to stop any vehicle upon reasonable suspicion and reroute drivers to their point of origin or a port of entry and impound the vehicle.
"The dramatic rise in unlawful border crossings has also led to a dramatic rise in COVID-19 cases among unlawful migrants who have made their way into our state, and we must do more to protect Texans from this virus and reduce the burden on our communities," Abbott said in a statement.
In his amended order, Abbott says, “President Biden’s failure to enforce the Title 42 order, combined with his refusal to enforce the immigration laws enacted by Congress, is having a predictable and potentially catastrophic effect on public health in Texas.”
Title 42 has been used to rapidly expel illegal immigrants who might transmit the coronavirus or other contagious diseases in America.
Both the governor’s action and Cueller’s call took place after it was revealed that Catholic Charities of The Rio Grande Valley arranged for COVID-19 positive illegal immigrants to stay in a hotel in La Joya, Texas. The charity, using federal funds, rented the entire hotel. Hotels in McAllen and other border communities have also been rented to be used for such purposes.
“We did not know this,” La Joya Sgt. Manuel Casas told reporters at a Tuesday press conference. “No one told the city of La Joya. No one told the police department that these people were here. And no one told us that these people were possibly ill.”
On Monday, a concerned citizen told a police officer that she saw family members coughing and sneezing at a Whataburger and the manager had asked them to leave. A police officer learned that the family had recently been apprehended by Border Patrol agents who released them into the general public because they had tested positive for COVID-19. They were being housed at no cost to them at the Texas Inn Hotel, which is fully booked to house migrants who entered the U.S. illegally.
“The information we have is that everybody that is staying in that hotel is COVID-19 positive,” Casas said.
In response, Hildago County Judge Richard Cortez, said in a statement, “We have been doing well as a community in slowing the spread of this deadly virus. But ill-conceived policies by both the federal and state governments are beginning to have serious consequences on Hildago County. I call on federal immigration officials to stop releasing infected migrants into our community.”
Catholic Charities of The Rio Grande Valley Sister Norma Pimentel told Border Report that the charity had made the arrangements to book COVID-positive immigrants into local area hotels.
However, a spokesperson for Customs and Border Protection said that Border Patrol was continuing to expel individuals under Title 42, despite the full hotels in McAllen and La Joya and others that have not yet been made public.
“RGV continues to expel individuals under Title 42 authorities as part of COVID mitigation efforts and utilizes pathways under Title 8 proceedings to remove those amenable to their home countries,” a CBP spokesperson said. “During these challenging times, our federal, state, and local partnerships are indispensable as we work to secure our borders and to quickly move individuals out of USBP custody and through the appropriate immigration pathway.”
Cuellar says he supports the use of Title 42, “especially right now. They need to publicize and show images of people being deported.” He asked the host of a Fox News program: “I ask you, ... have you seen one single picture of somebody being deported? No. I haven’t seen one. I see people coming in. But we’re not showing people being deported.
“These numbers are not stopping and with all due respect to the administration, they need to put a pause on this now for the sake of our border communities.”