SAN ANTONIO – Gov. Greg Abbott has been critical of the Biden administration’s release of asylum seekers at the border, which had been halted for months under the Trump Administration.
On Wednesday, when interviewed by KSAT’s Houston sister station, KPRC, Abbott said, “Illegal immigrants that the [Biden Administration is] allowing to come into the state of Texas who are positive for COVID-19 and being released into Texas communities.”
On Thursday, however, White House Press Secretary Jen Psaki said there are protocols to ensure COVID-19 testing is done.
“Our policy is for COVID-19 testing to be done at the state and local level with the help of NGOs (non-governmental organizations) and local governments,” Psaki said. “Our policy is to have that be done, concluded before they go stay with family members or others they may know while the cases are being adjudicated.”
Felipe Romero, public information officer for the city of Brownsville, said two groups are entering the country.
One of the groups is made up of asylum seekers who have been waiting in the Matamoros, Mexico, camps, which are known as the Migrant Protection Protocol programs, are tested on the other side of the border before they enter the U.S., he said.
“They cannot cross the border without having a negative test result,” Romero said.
The other group is people who crossed the border illegally and are dropped off by U.S. Customs and Border Protection under the catch-and-release program.
“They get tested immediately upon arriving with check wellness station,” Romero said. “If they test positive, they are informed they are positive, and we immediately follow all CDC guidelines and also inform them they need to isolate and highly recommend they quarantine.”
From Feb. 9 to March 3, 1,267 tests have been administered, Romero said. Of those tests, 169, or just over 13%, tested positive, but that’s just for the city of Brownsville. The tests are mandatory for those immigrants.
The rapid test results are received in about 15 minutes. Romero said local non-governmental organizations have set up shelters and hotel rooms for those who test positive to stay in and quarantine if they choose to. But they are released on an honor system that they’ll follow the safety guidelines.
Romero emphasized that the city is not involved at all in paying for their housing.
Romero said the city received 10,000 Rapid COVID-19 tests from the Texas Department of Emergency Management to facilitate the process.