Can You Report on Covid-19 in a Border Town Without Mentioning the Influx?

By David North on February 4, 2021

The New York Times managed a journalistic feat in reverse on February 2: It wrote at length about the dire Covid-19 situation in Laredo, Texas, without mentioning the influx of cases arriving from across the border, a flow that my colleague Todd Bensman writes about from time to time.

In an otherwise useful Times story about a hard-working physician who has personally conquered the virus, and who is battling a state government that is more interested in prosperity than life itself, we learn about the challenges facing Dr. Ricardo Cigarroa, the "Dr. Fauci of South Texas". But there is not a word about Covid-19 cases crossing the border. Laredo faces the Rio Grande and Nuevo Laredo on the other side of it, where the virus is rampant.

It is just another example of the mainstream media minimizing the downsides of international migration.

I must say, on the other hand, that reporter Simon Romero's story shed some light on two different Mexico-based problems that I did not know about:

  1. The cartels in Nuevo Laredo "have begun controlling the trade in oxygen tanks," and
  2. Many families ask that death certificates specify pneumonia, rather than Covid-19, so that they can "skirt [Mexican] regulations that prohibit family members from being present at Covid-19 burials."

These requests, if honored, account for some of the under-accounting of Covid-19 deaths in that country and are yet another example of grass-roots resistance to science, much like the African practice of bathing people killed by Ebola, or Texans swarming to bars.

The Times article reminded me of CIS's reporting on the totally different way that our government (and the governments of adjoining nations) have treated human movements across our southern and northern borders. There is very little movement to and from Canada and maps of Covid-19 hotspots show none on the northern border, while the same maps show some of the worst areas right on the Mexican border.

As a matter of fact, using the measure of how many new cases have been reported in the previous week per 100,000 inhabitants, as shown on the Times' own map, we have the following recent Covid-19 levels for the two most urban northern-border counties:


Erie (Buffalo, N.Y.)   43
Wayne (Detroit, Mich.)   15


And for these Texas border counties, from west to east:


Hudspeth   158
Presidio   219
Kinney   101
Maverick   193
Dimmit   223
Webb (Laredo)   124
Starr   114


So, four Texas border counties have worse situations, at least recently, than Webb does.

One of the reasons for the concentration of hot spots on the southern border is that the flow across the borders has been allowed to blossom in December as compared to April, while it has been just about unchanged on the northern border.

As an example of that, and returning to Laredo, these are the numbers of individuals crossing into that city in April and December of last year:

People Entering Laredo from the
South, April and December 2020

Category April
Bus Passengers 24,371 31,227 28.10%
Pedestrians 47,910 139,183 190.50%
People in Cars 256,453 379,057 47.80%
Total 328,734 549,467 67.10%

Source: U.S. Department of Transportation
count of border crossings.

Ironically, during an administration that was more interested in the haves than the have-nots, those with the least, the pedestrians, secured a higher percentage increase than others.

And with more than half a million arrivals a month, including U.S. citizens, green card holders, and numerous people with border-crossing cards, it is no wonder that Cigarroa has his hands full.