The Biden administration’s return to catch-and-release protocols at the border has one South Texas city feeling queasier by the day.
McAllen Mayor Jim Darling says Border Patrol agents are routinely dropping hundreds of adult migrants traveling with children at a bus station, without screening for COVID-19. The state has sent 10,000 test kits for local humanitarian groups to administer. Migrants testing positive are quarantined in hotels; the rest board buses for the U.S. interior.
Prior to President Joe Biden’s order reinstating catch and release, Border Patrol officers in the area encountered groups no larger than 50 people. This was due to rapid expulsions under COVID-19 travel restrictions and use of Trump-era programs like the Migrant Protection Protocols, safe third-country agreements, Prompt Asylum Claim Review and the Humanitarian Asylum Review Process — all of which limited the release of migrants into the U.S.
Now that the administration has ditched those programs, Border Patrol is dropping migrants at the bus station, untested. “Obviously, that’s very alarming to all of us. That they’re coming from Central America and through Mexico to be released into the United States without being tested for COVID is really unconscionable,” said state Sen. Juan “Chuy” Hinojosa, D-McAllen.
Asked about the situation, U.S. Customs and Border Protection (CBP) spokesman Rod Kise stated, “As the administration reviews the current immigration process, balancing it against the ongoing pandemic, we will continue to use all current authorities to avoid keeping individuals in a congregate setting for any length of time.”
So dumping migrants, some infected with the coronavirus, onto the streets of McAllen appears to be the administration’s strategy, pending “review.”
One McAllen facility, the Humanitarian Respite Center of the Rio Grande Valley, was caring for 400 migrants one day last week. After meeting with CBP officials last week, Darling expects sharply higher numbers.
Seeking to manage McAllen’s migrant congestion, the mayor says, “We are reaching out to Greyhound to get more buses [out of town].”