Topic Page: Covid-19 and Immigration
Major U.S. media organizations have recently reported that Covid-19 is jumping the southern border from overwhelmed Mexican hospitals in significant numbers, flooding California and Arizona hospitals along the border. Much of the reporting entirely avoided saying who all of these patients are who are crossing in from Mexico, although the New York Times took pains to emphatically report, with no supporting attribution, as I pointed out in a blog last week, that they were all American expatriates sickened in Mexico or else Mexican "green-card holders" who all would, of course, be entitled to the U.S. intensive care beds.
But three active-duty U.S. Border Patrol agents working the border in Texas, which along with Arizona and California is experiencing spikes in Covid-19 hospitalizations right now, tell me they are apprehending sick non-Mexican foreign nationals who had illegally entered along the Texas border and taking them to area hospitals per policy. That current policy requires immediate transport of reportedly sick migrants straight to the nearest care facility.
Under new emergency regulations to control the spread of Covid-19, Border Patrol officers are required to immediately return Mexican nationals to Mexico, sick or not.
But most non-Mexican migrants apprehended, such as those from Central America, are not immediately returned to their home countries or Mexico if they claim to be sick. These migrants go to the nearest hospital or medical facility, Border Patrol agents told me. Many of the migrants coming in sick and being transported to border healthcare facilities are non-Mexicans from Cuba, Ecuador, and Venezuela, one agent in the El Paso area told me.
"It's automatic," an agent told me of the hospital transfers.
Mexico's hospitals reportedly are overwhelmed, so "huge numbers of them (infected people in Mexico) are coming just to seek medical attention," one agent told me, speaking on condition of anonymity. "Agents are getting exposed and testing positive."
I was told that at least four Border Patrol agents have tested positive for Covid-19 over the past week after interacting with such migrants. Quite a few other Border Patrol agents are in quarantine, though the total number is unknown.
SA national CBP spokesman was unable to immediately provide comment on these issues and said the agency doesn’t normally distribute “hospital run” statistics and that doing so would take time.
Another agent told me that, despite the push-back policy for Mexican citizens, some who crossed illegally and evade apprehension can still make their way to hospitals. These "getaways", as agents call them, often know where the hospitals are and understand they will not be turned away.
It's difficult to say what percentages of the current spikes in California, Texas, and Arizona are attributable to sick people fleeing Mexico's overwhelmed hospitals for American ones along the border because states appear to be distributing these patients to interior hospitals to free up beds along the border.
In California, according to the New York Times' June 7 report, Covid-19 patients are being transported to other hospitals in the state's interior and north, for instance.
According to hospitalization data kept by Texas as of this week, 439 of the 2,518 lab-confirmed hospitalized patients in Texas were in five trauma service areas abutting the Mexican border.
I was told that many who test positive at the border get transported to Houston-area hospitals, although I was unable to independently confirm this. A good question is how many of these border patients can be attributed to the spikes currently happening in border states and if they are being transported to interior hospitals that are counting them in Houston or Dallas, as California is doing with its interior hospitals.
I will update as information becomes available.