Fact Check: Is The Biden Administration Releasing Migrants Into The US Who Have COVID-19?

Our weekly check-in with the Texas Truth-O-Meter.

By Alexandra HartMarch 17, 2021 2:30 pm, , ,

From PolitiFact Texas:

Abbott exaggerates COVID-19 concerns about migrants entering US

One day after Gov. Greg Abbott announced he would lift the statewide mask mandate and allow all businesses to open to 100% capacity, the governor turned his attention to the coronavirus spreading along the Texas-Mexico border.

“The Biden Administration is recklessly releasing hundreds of illegal immigrants who have COVID into Texas communities,” the governor said in a March 3 tweet. “The Biden Admin. must IMMEDIATELY end this callous act that exposes Texans & Americans to COVID.”

According to a March 2 NBC News article, 108 asylum seekers in Brownsville had tested positive for COVID-19 by rapid testing while waiting to board busses destined for other U.S. cities. The city of Brownsville conducts these tests on migrants after they are released by U.S. Customs and Border Protection. As of March 2, the 108 positive cases represented about 6% of all tests the city had been administered since the city began testing on Jan. 25. While the city can refer infected migrants to non-governmental organizations for quarantining, it does not have the authority to stop people from traveling throughout the country.

The NBC News article was picked up by Fox News and the New York Post the next day and prompted Abbott’s March 3 tweet about COVID-positive migrants endangering Texas communities.

Abbott continued this line of attack in the subsequent days, first during a TV interview with KPRC-TV in Houston, then in an interview with CNBC, and again in another tweet in which he said the state denied the federal government’s request for help in screening, testing and quarantining migrants.

“The unconscionable act by the Biden Administration of releasing COVID-positive illegal immigrants in our state puts the lives of Texans and Americans at risk,” he tweeted. “Border security is strictly a federal responsibility.”

In a Tuesday news conference at the border, Abbott urged the Biden administration to increase U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement funding, which is responsible for testing and detaining anyone crossing the border.

A negative coronavirus test is required by the federal government before entry to the U.S. While U.S. Customs and Border Protection conducts screenings, “suspected COVID-19 cases are referred to local health systems for appropriate testing, diagnosis, and treatment,” the agency said in a statement.

Felipe Romero, a spokesperson for the city of Brownsville, confirmed that the city was rapid testing each person Border Patrol dropped off at the city’s bus terminal. The 108 positive cases reported by NBC News on March 2 had climbed to 204 Tuesday, or about 12% of the total number of people tested.

Romero said that there are two categories of migrants who are being released to the city’s bus terminal: asylum seekers entering after the repeal of the Trump administration’s Remain in Mexico policy, and those who have been apprehended at the border and allowed to remain in the country pending immigration court hearings, a policy derogatorily described by critics as “catch and release.”

Let’s look closely at each category to determine the accuracy of Abbott’s tweet…

Read the full story and see how Abbott’s claim rated at PolitiFact.

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