(USA Features) A Department of Homeland Security official has admitted in a court filing that the number of migrants who have crossed illegally into the U.S. and are positive for COVID-19 has increased “significantly” in the past several weeks.
DHS Assistant Secreteary for Border and Immigration Policy David Shahoulian noted in the brief filed earlier this week that the agency had witnessed “significantly increased rates” of border-crossers infected with the novel coronavirus, which sparked “extremely worrisome” conditions at U.S. border detention facilities.
“As explained in more detail below, the United States is currently encountering record numbers of noncitizens, including families, at the border,” Shahoulian wrote in the brief.
“These encounter rates have strained DHS operations and caused border facilities to be filled beyond their normal operating capacity, impacting the ability to employ social distancing in these congregate settings,” the brief continued.
“At the same time, DHS is also experiencing significantly increased rates of noncitizens testing positive for COVID19. In light of these and other considerations, enjoining the application of the CDC Order to families would exacerbate overcrowding at DHS facilities and create significant public health risks,” he wrote.
“This risk has recently increased due to the recent spread of the highly transmissible COVID-19 Delta variant,” the DHS official continued.
“The rates at which encountered noncitizens are testing positive for COVID-19 have increased significantly in recent weeks,” he added.
“And although the rate of infection among CBP officers had been declining, this rate recently began increasing again, even though the percentage of officers and agents who have been fully vaccinated has grown significantly since January,” wrote Shahoulian.
“This has led to increasing numbers of CBP personnel being isolated and hospitalized.
The official also noted that as of Aug. 1, the U.S. Border Patrol was at 400% overcapacity, and that the agency had almost 18,000 illegal border crossers in custody though there is only space for a COVID-adjusted capacity limit of around 4,700.
“These capacity figures are extremely worrisome,” Shahoulian wrote.
The court filing admission that DHS is concerned about the rising numbers of COVID-infected migrants comes as Republicans and other critics blast the Biden administration for pushing new coronavirus restrictions and vaccine mandates for Americans while allegedly ignoring the growing problem along the border.
They say their concerns are being exacerbated by the emergence of the new Delta variant, which is said to be more contagious that the original strain.
“These capacity figures are extremely worrisome, particularly because of the continued spread of the highly transmissible Delta variant,” Shahoulian wrote.
“Overcrowding challenges DHS’s ability to effectively execute many of its core public health mitigation and countermeasure activities,” he added.
“Additionally, higher rates of COVID-19 transmission within a DHS facility could quickly impede the Department’s ability to utilize that facility’s maximum capacity, further lowering the overall processing and holding capacity along the southwest border,” the official wrote in the filing.
“Indeed, the Department’s operations have already been impacted by significantly increased positivity rates among individuals in its facilities, including families.”
Earlier in the week, city officials in McAllen, Texas, complained that DHS officials have released more than 7,000 COVID-infected illegal migrants into the community.