Mounting Evidence Points to Covid Refugees from Mexico as a Major Factor in Border-State Spikes

By Todd Bensman on June 24, 2020

Read More: CBP Chief: Personnel in Contact with Covid-Infected Illegal Immigrants Dying of Virus in the Line of Duty

Topic Page: Covid-19 and Immigration

Evidence continues to mount that spikes in Covid cases in U.S. border states are due to successive waves of infected people fleeing Mexico's dysfunctional and overwhelmed hospitals to get American medical care at least as much, if not more than, to the re-opening of those states' economies. This matters because officials in border states are beginning to base policy decisions for partial lock-downs on grounds that lifting them is what caused the spikes.

Although the states and hospitals do not release nationality or immigration status information, several Border Patrol agents told the Center for Immigration Studies that, per policy, they have been transporting to U.S. care facilities increasing numbers of illegal Central American border-crossers they apprehend who report Covid-like symptoms, as well as Cubans, Venezuelans, Ecuadorans, and other nationalities.

The U.S. Customs and Border Protection's media relations office was not able confirm the extent to which that was happening, but did release the following statement regarding Border Patrol hospital runs such as those the agents described.

CBP has longstanding procedures in place to ensure that the individuals we encounter are able to receive treatment from local health authorities or other medical professionals. All persons in CBP custody who meet the Center for Disease Control's Covid-19 travel history and enhanced screening guidelines are being referred to the CDC or local health officials for additional screening. CBP takes all necessary precautions to ensure that no communicable diseases are spread across populations in custody.

Earlier, the Washington Post, the New York Times, and the Wall Street Journal all reported a crush of infected people from Mexico coming over the Arizona and California borders, although the publications say all appear to be American expatriates, dual citizenship holders, and Mexican legal permanent residents.

States appear to be transporting many to interior facilities to keep bed space free on the border as the influx continues, adding to the impression that these imported patients were infected inside the United States due to lifting lock-downs rather than in Mexico, where few social distancing measures were implemented.

The Times and now Reuters have reported that California, for instance, has been airlifting Covid patients from "saturated" border clinics to hospitals in the state's interior.

In a recent interview with California Pastor Tim Thompson, who produces a Youtube video program titled "This is Our Watch", registered nurse Megan Hill, who is working with Covid patients in Riverside County, Calif., said her patients say they are being flown by helicopter to her hospital from border facilities overwhelmed by Mexico Covid refugees.

"According to my patients, they are coming over from Mexico because they're not getting treated in Mexico. They are flying helicopters every hour — bam, bam, bam — constantly flying them. It's definitely happening."

Hill said she does not know the nationalities of the patients, nor does she ask, but "What I do know is that a lot of them are Spanish-speaking only. What I do know is what my patients said, is a lot of them are coming over the border and going to the hospital and they're flying them from that hospital."

Hill also said she believes California is double counting these cases, once at the border, and then again at Riverside County hospitals.

"Our county is counting these people as [new positives in] Riverside County. They are not. They have tested positive already in the county of San Diego. They're flying them over to the county of Riverside so if they're going to do that why is Riverside taking those counts?"

Meanwhile, in Texas, where a spike is almost universally attributed to the lifting of economic lock-downs, the number of Covid-19 hospitalizations in trauma service areas along the Mexican border more than doubled to 886 of the state's 3,711 hospitalizations in just the past week, according to state health data. It's unclear how many more were transported to facilities in the Texas interior to free up beds along the border as the apparent influx from Mexico continues.

In Arizona, where the Covid spike is also widely attributed to re-openings, positive new infections have skyrocketed over the past month along the border, to 12,032 of the state's 54,586 cases reported this week. The border cities of Yuma and Nogales have become the state's reddest hotspots, with positive Covid tests in Santa Cruz County tripling to 31 percent of tests since May (1,482 this week). In Yuma County, positive Covid cases have tripled from 1,289 to 4,591 just since June 1. Pima County was reporting 5,587 this week compared to 187 on June 1.

Among the reasons cited for Arizona's spike are the relaxation of social distancing after the state's stay-at-home order expired and family celebrations, according to the Arizona Republic.

In line with that explanation, Arizona Governor Doug Ducey rolled out new restrictions aimed at businesses and restaurants before back-tracking to allow local governments to decide.

"There will be enforcement, and they will be held accountable," the Republic quoted Ducey saying.

In Texas, eight weeks into re-openings, Governor Greg Abbott ordered tightened outdoor gathering rules and other emergency rules on grounds of "rampant" spread of Covid and a spike in "hospitalizations" that did not reference the many hundreds being hospitalized in Texas border facilities.