Border Patrol quarantines migrants at McAllen facility amid flu outbreak – The Texas Tribune

Border Patrol quarantines migrants at McAllen facility amid flu outbreak - The Texas Tribune

Dont blame Border Patrol for child deaths at the border. Blame immigration policy.

The quarantine of nearly three dozen migrants at the agencys central processing center happened a day after the death of a 16-year-old who had contracted the flu.

Undocumented immigrant children at a U.S. Border Patrol processing center in McAllen, Texas in 2018.  U.S. Customs and Border Protection U.S. Border Patrol agents have quarantined nearly three dozen migrants who were being held at the agencys main processing facility in McAllen, after they were found to be infected with the influenza virus, a U.S. Customs and Border Protection official said Wednesday.

To stop the spread of the flu, CBP temporarily halted operations at its Central Processing Center on Tuesday, a day after the death of 16-year-old Carlos Hernandez Vasquez, who had been detained at the facility and had tested positive for influenza.

The agency identified 32 migrants with influenza after a rigorous health screening of the detainee population, said the CBP official, who spoke on the condition of anonymity during a conference call with reporters.

The government agency tasked with policing Americas borders has warned repeatedly of crisis conditions on the southwest border, where Border Patrol agents are arresting and detaining a rapidly growing number of migrants. The agency says it does not have the capacity to care for the crush of migrants, which has overwhelmed nearly all aspects of the U.S. immigration system.

Nearly 45,000 of the migrants apprehended during the past six months have been unaccompanied children.

The McAllen processing center, a crowded warehouselike building where detainees are held behind fencing and sleep on mats, is among the busiest facilities along the southern border.

Between the center and an adjacent, temporary soft-sided shelter, the facility currently holds approximately 2,500 people, the CBP official said.

Carlos had been held at the McAllen processing center for nearly a week, at which point he was diagnosed with the flu. He was prescribed medication and Border Patrol officials moved him to another facility, where he could be isolated from the rest of the detainee population.

He died shortly afterward, the fifth Guatemalan child since December to die after being detained at the border, and at least the second to have contracted a strain of the flu.

We are often encountering a population that is often ill, the CBP official said Wednesday. Were making 69 trips a day to the hospital.

Efforts to find more space for people to sleep, and to isolate the sick when necessary, means that shuffling detainees between Border Patrol facilities more or less has become standard practice, the official added.

Kevin McAleenan, the acting homeland security secretary, acknowledged in March that CBP was seeing seriously ill migrants coming into its custody. Some have had the chickenpox or the flu, and infants have had fevers as high as 105 degrees.

We are doing everything we can to simply avoid a tragedy in a CBP facility, McAleenan said in March while speaking in El Paso, describing the U.S. immigration system as reaching its breaking point. But with these numbers, with the types of illnesses were seeing at the border, I fear that its just a matter of time.

All Border Patrol agents are trained in emergency first aid — a skill often needed in isolated stretches of the border where agents encounter migrants at risk of drowning, dehydration or other hazards.

But CBP employs an outside contractor to provide medical assessments and basic medical services to its detainees, including initial health screenings upon arrival.

We are not trained to do those things on our own, the official said. We follow their guidance and transport those individuals to the hospital when needed.

When we read of individual deaths, we see them as isolated cases. But clearly, we have a huge systemic problem, Erika Andiola, the chief advocacy officer at ­RAICES, an immigrant advocacy group, said in a statement. Children dying in U.S. custody is a national emergency and should be treated as such.

CBP is required by law to transfer unaccompanied migrant children to the Department of Health and Human Services custody within 72 hours of apprehension, except under exigent circumstances.

Last month, immigration authorities detained 109,144 migrants along the U. S-Mexico border, the most in a single month since 2007. More than 60 percent were families or children.

Tents have been set up in Border Patrol parking lots to alleviate the overcrowding. CBP this month also began boarding some new arrivals onto airplanes to jet them to less crowded facilities.

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Migrant child died in custody while trying to reach her mother Washington — The second-highest ranking official at Customs and Border Protection (CBP) said hes confident in the data his agency has publicly disclosed about the deaths of migrant children in U.S. custody. The issue sparked an uproar among Democrats and immigration advocates after it was revealed that six children have died in U.S. custody, or shortly after being released, in the past eight months.

“Im very confident in the data that CBP has reported with respect to deaths in CBP custody,” Deputy CBP Commissioner Robert Perez told CBS News during in an exclusive interview Thursday.

Pressed on whether the American public and Congress could expect to learn about other deaths that were not immediately publicized — like the September death of 10-year-old Darlyn Valle, who was in the custody of the Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) — Perez said his agency, which oversees the Border Patrol officers who first encounter migrants near the U.S.-Mexico border, is committed to an “unprecedented degree of transparency.”

He vowed to continue CBPs practice of reporting deaths of migrants in the agencys custody to congressional committees and the public.

Five Guatemalan children apprehended by U.S. authorities near the southern border have died since December, three of whom were in CBP custody and one who died shortly after being released by the agency. On Wednesday, CBS News was the first to report that Darlyn, a native of El Salvador who had a debilitating heart condition, died in government custody last year. Democratic Texas Rep. Joaquin Castro accused the Trump administration of covering up the death, which had not been previously disclosed. 

Perez said a “humanitarian crisis” near the southern border, fueled by an unprecedented surge of migrant families and unaccompanied children from Central America journeying north, is “overwhelming” government detention and housing facilities and making it more difficult for his agency to take care of “vulnerable populations,” like the children who have died. 

“Were still making nearly 70 trips a day to the hospital across the entirety of the border because of the medical conditions that were encountering,” Perez added. 

He said the resources of HHS, which typically takes in migrant children within three days of their detention by Border Patrol, are also been strained by the large-scale migration from Guatemala, El Salvador and Honduras — a region known as the “Northern Triangle” which has been plagued by widespread poverty, chronic violence and crop failures due to climate change.

Asked why Carlos Hernandez Vásquez — the latest migrant child to die —  remained in CBP custody for a week before passing away and not transferred to HHS within 72 hours, Perez signaled that theres not enough funding from Congress to expand detention and bed space for migrants.  

Echoing comments by Homeland Security Secretary Kevin McAleenan on Capitol Hill this week, Perez said that unless Congress approves more funding to deal with the flow of migrant families heading toward the border and changes the “legal framework” around limits on family detention, it will be difficult for his officials to prevent more deaths of migrant children in U.S. custody.   

He noted that his agency is a law enforcement body and not supposed to be taking care of young children and families, especially if they are sick. 

“Were not designed to take care of children, but we do it. Heartfelt and true. Every day, with every bit of will and ability that we have. And they do it exceptionally well,” he added. 

But without the funding and hanged in immigration law that the Trump administration is requesting, Perez reiterated his officers will continue to face a daunting task at the border. 

“Criminal organizations are exploiting this situation, theyre exploiting the vulnerabilities in our laws, and it is costing all of us to an unprecedented level. And worst yet — most tragically — it should never be at the cost of anyones life,” he said. 


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