ATLANTA (AP) — A globe-trotting Atlanta lawyer with a dangerous strain of tuberculosis was allowed back into the United States by a border inspector who disregarded a computer warning to stop him and don protective gear, officials said yesterday.
The inspector has been removed from border duty.
The unidentified inspector said he is not a doctor but the infected man seemed perfectly healthy and that he thought the warning was merely “discretionary,” officials briefed on the case told the Associated Press. They spoke on the condition of anonymity because the matter is still under investigation.
Andrew Speaker, 31, was quarantined May 25, a day after he was allowed to pass through the border crossing at Champlain, N.Y., along the Canadian border.
The inspector ran Mr. Speaker’s passport through a computer, and a warning — including instructions to hold the traveler, don a protective mask in dealing with him, and telephone health authorities — popped up, officials said. About a minute later, Mr. Speaker was instead cleared to continue on his journey, according to officials familiar with the records.
The Homeland Security Department is investigating.
“The border agent who questioned that person is at present performing administrative duties,” said Homeland Security spokesman Russ Knocke, adding those duties do not include checking people at the land-border crossing.
Colleen Kelley, president of the union that represents customs and border agents, declined to comment on the specifics of the case, but said “public health issues were not receiving adequate attention and training” within the agency.