Illegal immigrants refuse to social distance or wear masks and can’t be kept in quarantine even if they do contract the coronavirus, the Department of Homeland Security’s inspector general said in a report Wednesday that undercuts many of the Biden administration’s claims.
The audit said the policies established by Customs and Border Protection to handle the surge of migrant families is “not effective” because it relies on communities that don’t have the power to impose a quarantine even if an individual does test positive.
And the Biden administration is making less use of a pandemic border expulsion tool, which has led to “increased risk for CBP personnel, migrants in custody and local communities” from the virus, the inspector general said.
“Without stronger COVID-19 prevention measures in place, DHS is putting its workforce, support staff, communities and migrants at greater risk of contracting the virus,” the investigation concluded.
Investigators surveyed CBP agents and officers along the southwest border and said they received some worrying responses.
Migrants, despite being “constantly reminded” of coronavirus risks, refused to distance or wear masks.
And the surge of people meant migrants were in custody for extended periods of time in overcrowded Border Patrol stations, adding to the risks.
The report confirms many of the claims Republicans have made over the months, accusing the Biden administration of obfuscating the risks of COVID-19 from the unprecedented surge of migrants.
“While migrants crossing illegally are given a free pass, American citizens traveling internationally are required to present a negative result. The double standard is astounding,” said Rep. John Katko, the senior Republican on the House Homeland Security Committee.
Mr. Katko said the finding about the pandemic border expulsion tool, known as Title 42 authority, was particularly striking.
The Trump administration made full use of the tool, pushing almost all illegal border jumpers back across the boundary into Mexico. Not only did that lessen their time in the U.S., limiting spread of the virus, but it also served as a deterrent to people attempting to come.
Mr. Katko said the administration should “right its wrongs” and get a better handle on its policies.
The inspector general said Homeland Security could assist its efforts by empowering its chief medical officer.
Homeland Security, in its official response, agreed with that suggestion.
“DHS is committed to the wellbeing of the communities in which we serve, our workforce and people in our care and custody,” said Jim H. Crumpacker, the department’s liaison to the inspector general.
Homeland Security Secretary Alejandro Mayorkas had repeatedly told Congress the department had a handle on COVID risks from the migrant surge.
In particular, he said, the department was relying on local nonprofit organizations, which the government is paying, to test and quarantine.
The new audit challenged that idea.
“The COVID-19 testing process for family units post-CBP custody is not effective because municipalities cannot force families to isolate for the required quarantine period,” the audit concluded.