Dr. Anthony Fauci, President Biden‘s special coronavirus adviser, acknowledged Thursday that illegal immigrants are being allowed across the U.S.-Mexico border without the same kind of testing and precautions any other international traveler would have to go through.
He also acknowledged the packed pens where children are being held for days violate the social distancing guidelines he’s urged for the rest of the country.
But under questioning by Republicans, he declined to criticize the Biden team that GOP lawmakers said is to blame for inviting the record surge.
“Obviously, everyone would like to see that situation fixed, I know. But it’s a very difficult situation,” he said.
Rep. Steve Scalise, the No. 2 Republican in the House, said Americans are fed up with what they see as a double standard of lecturing from the administration over precautions, even as those same guidelines are broken at the border.
“Americans want to get back to their [lives], but they don’t want two sets of rules, either. And that’s what’s happening right now at our southern border,” the Louisiana lawmaker said.
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Republicans have been eager to put Dr. Fauci on the spot over the border, where even as the Biden administration was declaring a national mask policy on all federal property, migrants were streaming across unmasked, kept in holding facilities without a chance of social distancing, and being released without COVID testing.
Previously Dr. Fauci, who became a hero to many left-leaning Americans as he seemed to battle President Trump over the virus, had rebuffed attempts to be drawn into commenting on the border crisis.
Testing of migrants has improved in recent weeks, though members of Congress who recently returned from the border say agents told them the situation is still so overwhelming that some people are being released into communities untested.
A congressman back from a trip to the border said Wednesday that agents told him they have no way of verifying migrants’ identities, meaning people are boarding airplanes without the kinds of documents that would be demanded of any other passenger.
Rep. Tom Tiffany, Wisconsin Republican, also said in a letter asking for answers from Homeland Security that agents told him the surge of people is so overwhelming that COVID testing is not possible for all of them.
“While some news reports suggest that aliens are tested for COVID-19 before they are released, numerous Border Patrol and other Customs and Border Protection personnel I spoke with in the Rio Grande Valley last week directly contradicted this claim — saying that universal testing is simply not possible due to the sheer volume of migrants officers are being forced to process,” Rep. Tom Tiffany, Wisconsin Republican, wrote to Homeland Security Secretary Alejandro Mayorkas this week.
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During a hearing before the House’s special coronavirus subcommittee on Thursday, Republicans pointed to Centers for Disease Control and Prevention documents saying international travelers coming into the U.S. — even those vaccinated — “are required to have COVID-19 test results no more than three days before travel or documentation of recovery from COVID-19 in the past three months before they board a flight to the United States.”
Dr. Rochelle Walensky, the CDC director under Mr. Biden, insisted that was “guidance.”
“It’s not the law,” she said.
Mr. Scalise fired back: “No, it doesn’t say recommendation. This says ‘all are required.’”