President Joe Biden has effectively resumed the so-called “catch and release” approach to migrant apprehension along the southern border after the stricter policies enforced under former President Donald Trump.
In cities like McAllen, Texas, that reversal is causing serious problems amid the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic.
Disaster order reveals troubling trend
According to the Washington Examiner, officials in that border city declared a local disaster this week and are reportedly scrambling to respond after about 7,000 undocumented immigrants were released by federal officials in recent days. About 1,500 of those individuals are said to have tested positive for COVID-19.
After the city had seen roughly 7,000 COVID-positive migrants released over the span of about five months, the recent spike of 1,500 more within a week has apparently overwhelmed local authorities, charities, and non-governmental organizations under contract to help process newly arrived migrants released by Border Patrol.
According to the Daily Caller, McAllen Mayor Javier Villalobos issued a disaster decree for his city on Monday in a bid to gain access to additional resources from Hidalgo County and the state. The city commission has joined him by issuing a declaration that approved the emergency establishment of new temporary shelters to help manage the uptick in potentially sick and contagious migrants being released within the city.
In addition to the resources sought from the county and state, the city is also seeking compensation and reimbursement from the federal government in light of the fact that federal agents are releasing the migrants instead of turning them away at the border or detaining them elsewhere.
City officials do not appear to be exaggerating the recent increase in migrant arrivals, backing up their claims with statistics showing the number of federal apprehensions and migrants released to local charities or NGOs. The number of migrants released in McAllen reportedly climbed from 750 per day in early July to 1,100 per day just weeks later.
Local officials plead for assistance
As of the latest available statistics, that number appears to be in the range of 1,900 per day for a facility with a maximum capacity of roughly 1,200.
The city’s statement on the matter praised the work of Catholic Charities and its NGO partner American Medical Response, which are working to offer testing, quarantine, and temporary housing to COVID-positive migrants. Recent trends, however, leave little doubt that both of the organizations are simply overwhelmed by the number of new arrivals each day.
Making matters worse, those migrants who do test positive for the virus are reportedly held for just two days before they are released again.
Hidalgo County has also declared a local disaster in response to the influx of migrants. In it, County Judge Richard Cortez lamented the lack of room and resources as well as the high rate of COVID-19 infections among those being tested.
Reports indicate none of the local leaders have yet to hear a response to their pleas for help from the Biden administration.