Customs and Border Protection confirmed that 135 detainees at the Rio Grande Valley crossing point have tested positive for COVID-19 in the first two weeks of July alone.
The cases in the Rio Grande Valley sector detention facilities now account for 60% of all detainees confirmed to have COVID-19 and are under CBP’s care, Fox News reported Tuesday. The striking figure regarding the RGV sector, one of the busiest sections of the border through which thousands of people cross daily, comes as the Biden administration contends with a worsening crisis at the southern border.
The number of noncitizens encountered by law enforcement in June, nearly 190,000 people, is the highest counted in more than 21 years. Of that total, roughly 105,000 people were sent back to Mexico and denied asylum. Border Patrol counted 113,000 adults, 15,000 unaccompanied children, and 50,000 people traveling as part of a family group last month.
The number of illegal migrant apprehensions has been ticking up monthly since March 2020 and ballooned this spring as President Joe Biden loosened a pandemic-era policy stipulating that no one who came across is detained but instead be turned back to Mexico. The monthly tally of new border crossings swelled as Biden began rolling back some Trump-era border restrictions put in place last year that aimed to prevent further spread of COVID-19 in the United States.
Border officials do not typically test detainees at the southern border. Rather, detainees are tested after they are transferred to other locations, such as other government-run facilities. Unaccompanied migrant children, for instance, are placed in the care of the Office of Refugee Resettlement, part of the Department of Health of Human Services, where they can be tested.
Vaccination rates in Central American countries where most migrants come from are significantly lower than those in the U.S., prompting fears that an influx of unvaccinated people at the southern border could exacerbate the spread of the highly transmissible delta variant now responsible for about 83% of active cases in the U.S.