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Tipsheet

Illegals Released By DHS Were Not Tested for COVID-19 Before Taking Commercial Flights

Townhall Media/Julio Rosas

A Department of Homeland Security (DHS) Office of Inspector General investigation found many migrants who illegally crossed the U.S.-Mexico border and later released by DHS were not tested for COVID-19 before they boarded commercial flights to other cities in the country.

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DHS has been relying on non-governmental organizations to test people for COVID-19 released by Border Patrol but there are towns who either don't have a non-governmental organization to conduct the testing or they do not have the capacity.

A summary of the report stated U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement could not prove single adults, family units, and unaccompanied minors had been given COVID-19 tests before boarding domestic flights: 

"ICE Enforcement and Removal Operations (ERO) policy requires coronavirus disease 2019 (COVID-19) testing of migrants before transfer, transport, or release from ICE detention facilities. These policies do not include requirements to test family units or noncitizen unaccompanied children (UC) before transfer from U.S. Customs and Border Protection custody. ERO has a process for escorting UCs, but the process does not include requirements to ensure UCs are tested for COVID-19 before transport to the Department of Health and Human Services’ Office of Refugee Resettlement. The Department of Homeland Security Chief Medical Officer recommended UCs receive a COVID-19 test before transport. However, ICE has not implemented this recommendation.

"We identified numerous instances where ERO could not provide evidence that single adults, family units, and UCs were tested for COVID-19 before transport on domestic commercial flights. It is important for DHS and all its components to detect and slow the spread of COVID-19, and ICE is responsible for transporting migrants domestically to ICE facilities and other locations. Therefore, to reduce the spread of COVID-19, ICE should ensure migrants in its care are COVID-19–negative before they board domestic commercial flights. Without ensuring all migrants are COVID-19–negative and without complete records, ERO could risk exposing other migrants, ERO staff, and the general public to COVID-19 on domestic commercial flights."

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"ERO did not have controls in place to ensure staff and contractors followed the requirements to test all single adult migrants for COVID-19 before transfer, transport, or release using domestic commercial flights in FY 2021. We reviewed a sample of 48 detainees and identified 24 occasions where a migrant boarded a domestic commercial flight. In 11 of those 24 occasions, ERO could not provide evidence the migrant received a COVID-19 test within 3 days of transport," the report continued.

The DHS OIG report is consistent to what had been described to Townhall during the border crisis in 2021. When the Del Rio Sector was overwhelmed by Haitians illegally crossing the border, many were released into the U.S. by DHS and in the case of those take flights out of the Del Rio International Airport, they were not tested for COVID-19.

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