In an admission that may boost claims that the Biden administration's border crisis is partly driving a COVID-19 surge in the U.S., Homeland Security Secretary Alejandro Mayorkas acknowledged on Monday that approximately one out of every five migrants entering the country illegally have an “illness.”
The DHS chief did not specify whether the illness he was referring to was COVID-19 during his speech at the virtual Immigration Law and Policy Conference. But he noted in his remarks that the rise of the COVID-19 Delta variant caught him off guard and that amid a pandemic, the U.S. immigration system is not capable of handling a rapid influx of migrants.
“We are confronted with a population of people that, as a general matter, have a rate of illness of approximately 20%,” Mayorkas said, according to the Daily Mail. “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.”
“What I didn't expect was the tragic rise of the Delta variant,” the secretary noted, adding, “We took a step back by reason of that. I did not expect to be in late September where we are.”
Moreover, that figure does not include the nearly 15,000 predominantly Haitian migrants who have been processed in recent days after camping out in squalid conditions under a bridge in Del Rio, Texas.
Mayorkas told reporters at the White House on Friday that U.S. immigration authorities did not test those migrants for COVID-19.
“We did not test that population of individuals,” he said. “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. We certainly had some people get sick, not with COVID to my knowledge, and we addressed their illnesses.”
Nevertheless, at least 12,000 of those migrants have reportedly been released into the U.S. in spite of the Biden administration's promises to repatriate them. Since the start of the border surge earlier this year, the administration has released tens of thousands of migrants directly into the country, many without being tested for the virus.
The Daily Mail cited the administration's inability to test migrants to note it is unclear how exactly the secretary arrived at the 20% figure.
At the time of publication, neither video nor a transcript of Mayorkas comments was available. A representative for the Immigration Law and Policy Conference said a video would be posted by Tuesday evening.
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