- The Washington Times - Wednesday, March 3, 2021

The White House said Wednesday that most illegal immigrants jumping the border are still being turned away under a Trump-era policy President Biden has not yet erased, but said the ones that are being caught and released are getting COVID-19 testing.

Folks on the border say that’s not the whole story.

Border sheriffs said in some cases, migrants are being released without any testing at all.

In other cases, the federal government is hoping local officials are doing the testing — but those locals say even when they get back positive tests, they have no power to stop the migrants from getting on buses, along with an unsuspecting general public, and heading deeper into the U.S.

The releases appear to contradict the administration’s own pandemic crackdown rules.

“Democrats have locked down the country and opened our borders,” said Rep. Paul Gosar, an Arizona Republican whose district includes part of Yuma County, where local officials say people are being released with no testing whatsoever. ”Encouraging illegal migrant caravans and human trafficking during a pandemic is antithetical to every deluded decree Democrats have levied upon the American people in the name of science and public health.”

The scope of border chaos has grown dramatically this week.

The surge of illegal immigrants is so large that Border Patrol agents in Arizona are rushing to Walmart and Sam’s Club to buy diapers and baby formula, said Yuma Sheriff Leon Wilmot.
“I­­t’s getting worse as far as numbers go,” he told The Washington Times.

In Texas, smugglers have so many migrant customers that they’ve taken to slapping plastic bracelets on them to keep everyone organized as they ship them across into the U.S., according to the Center for Immigration Studies.

And in California, 13 migrants were killed in a gruesome traffic accident Tuesday when the SUV they were riding in — piled with 25 people — ran a stop sign and was T-boned by a tractor trailer. Authorities believe they were illegal immigrants whose vehicle barreled through a hole in the border wall. The Ford Expedition had its rear seats taken out to allow more migrants to be stuffed into the vehicle.

Border numbers have skyrocketed in recent weeks as migrants rush north, hoping to take advantage of what they believe are more lenient policies from the new Biden team.
Administration officials have repeatedly said the border isn’t open and people will be turned back, thanks to a Trump-era pandemic emergency order that the Biden team has kept in place. But other changes the Biden team has made have actually spawned the surge, migrants tell agents.

The surge, and a new policy to bring into the U.S. some 25,000 migrants who’ve been waiting in Mexico after being deflected from entering by the Trump administration, have complicated the Biden team’s messaging on the coronavirus pandemic.

White House press secretary Jen Psaki said there are only “narrow and limited instances” where migrants are being released into communities.

She said in those cases, coronavirus testing is being done by state and local authorities with the help of non-governmental organizations.

“So that is a consistent part of our approach and what we do as migrants come in at the border,” she said.

That’s different than what Homeland Security Secretary Alejandro Mayorkas said, standing alongside Ms. Psaki on Monday, when asked about testing. He said the government was doing it.

“As a matter of process, individuals of family units are brought into ICE custody. They are tested,” he said. “ICE has the capability to test them; to isolate and quarantine them, as the results so dictate; and then to address their needs as the immigration process provides.”

But Sheriff Wilmot said neither Ms. Psaki nor Mr. Mayorkas have a handle on what their administration is doing in Yuma County, where migrants are being released without testing.

Some were dropped off in the parking lot of a Jack in the Box restaurant. Across the state in Cochise County they were dropped at a Walmart.

Sheriff Wilmot said ICE is overwhelmed with the numbers and can’t take all of the people Border Patrol is holding, so agents are having to release some of them.

Homeland Security referred questions about Mr. Mayorkas’ claims to Customs and Border Protection, which oversees the Border Patrol. CBP said its employees do a health screening, which includes temperature checks and a series of health-related questions, but it does not include COVID-19 testing.

Ms. Psaki’s statement that the administration is relying on local officials appears to be true in southern Texas, where agents say they’re releasing migrants and shepherding them over to the local chapter of Catholic Charities.

The organization didn’t respond to inquiries from The Washington Times. But on its website, it is asking for donations to help with its work with migrants.

A Noticias Telemundo Investiga report found some migrants were being tested by the City of Brownsville when they showed up at the bus station. The city found 108 migrants released by the Border Patrol who rested positive for COVID-19.

The city said it didn’t have the power to stop them from getting on the buses.

And none of those instances address cases where migrants who jump the border evade apprehension and disappear into the country’s interior without any screening.

Sheriff Wilmot said his deputies found a farm bus Tuesday night with about 30 migrants who’d snuck in to try to keep warm overnight. The deputies called the Border Patrol, but agents said they were too swamped with other cases to respond.

The farm company told the deputies the migrants could use the bus for shelter.

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