In a Time of Coronavirus, U.S. Begins Rapid-Fire Removals at Border

As coronavirus spreads in the Southwest, the Border Patrol is quickly turning back illegal aliens who enter the U.S.

Under expedited deportation procedures, migrants are being expelled to Mexico in an average of 96 minutes. U.S. agents are processing aliens from Mexico, Guatemala, El Salvador and Honduras “in the field” before migrants can set foot inside a Border Patrol station. The migrants are then escorted back to the border and sent into Mexico.

U.S. Customs and Border Protection (CBP) said Monday that unaccompanied minors who arrive at the border can be returned to their origin country instead of being handed over to the Department of Health and Human Services, which is typically charged with their care.

“The goal is to minimize the exposure to the alien, agent and our country,” a CBP official said.

Mexico said it would accept returns from the United States on a “case by case” basis and that the process would involve medical screenings. But as a practical matter, U.S. officials said Mexican authorities are accepting nearly all of the expelled migrants from those four nations.

In a case that predates the coronavirus outbreak, the U.S. Supreme Court is weighing the legality of expedited deportations. This week, the Trump administration announced that U.S. immigration courts will stop hearing asylum cases until further notice.

While the administration closed America’s southern and northern ports of entry to non-essential traffic last month, Mexican borderlands loom as a prime breeding ground for coronavirus.

Though Mexico lags the U.S. in the number of cases, officials there announced on March 24 that COVID had moved to a new phase and was spreading unchecked in communities. Still, Mexican authorities have yet to implement measures for distancing and isolation at crowded migrant camps along the border.

Amid growing health concerns, a new Harvard/Harris Poll reported that 83 percent of Americans – including 73 percent of Democratic voters – support at least a temporary halt in immigration from Mexico.

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