BROWNSVILLE, Texas — I had only been at the Greyhound bus station for 40 minutes and in that time two Border Patrol vans had come to drop off recently apprehended migrants so they could get a COVID-19 test. The tests were being administered by the city of Brownsville.
The bus station has been turned into an ad-hoc processing facility, where released migrants can wait for their test results while volunteers with Team Brownsville, an organization dedicated to "help families and individuals legally seeking asylum in the United States," hand out care packages.
Yolanda, who is from Guatemala, said she and her children were trying to make it to Chicago. After testing negative for COVID, she was given a bus ticket. A worker with the testing site said they had already processed "many" people by noon.
NBC News had reported in early March a major problem with the migrants who had tested positive for COVID but were still able to get on buses to travel further into the United States. Department of Homeland Security Secretary Alejandro Mayorkas admitted during a House Homeland Security Committee there had been many instances where apprehended migrants were released into the United States without getting COVID tests.
"There were times earlier when individuals were apprehended, and we sought to expel them, and we were unable to expel them, and we were compelled to release them, and we did not have the opportunity to test them, Mayorkas said, then adding, "We have addressed that situation."
The increase in illegal foot traffic comes after President Joe Biden reversed several immigration policies that were put in place by the Trump administration. In February, CBP apprehended 100,441 people trying to illegally enter the United States along the southwest border, a 28 percent increase over January 2021. CBP completed 72,113 expulsions from the border under the CDC's guidance for Title 42 authority. Of the 100,441 apprehended individuals, 29,792 were unaccompanied children, with 2,942 of the minors being under 12-years-old and 26,850 were aged 13 to 17-years-old.