Border Patrol has released hundreds of migrants without COVID test

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Border Patrol has released hundreds of migrants without COVID test

DEL RIO, Texas — US Customs and Border Protection have released around 2,000 illegal immigrants into this tiny border town in west T

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DEL RIO, Texas — US Customs and Border Protection have released around 2,000 illegal immigrants into this tiny border town in west Texas over the last several weeks without at least ensuring they had a COVID-19 test, The Post has learned. 

“I don’t think people realize that the volunteers who have been here from the beginning were taking a risk on behalf of their community in order to assist with this issue,” Tiffany Burrow, the director of operations at Del Rio’s Val Verde Border Humanitarian Coalition, said Tuesday. 

“Del Rio has fallen under the radar repeatedly. Not just in 2019 but also in 2021 as well,” she went on, referencing the last migrant surge to rock the southern border. 

The volunteer run center, nestled between rows of cacti and miles of ranch land on the edges of the Chihuahuan Desert, is the only buffer point migrants have between US Border Patrol and their next stop. 

Since February, they’ve received just over 2,000 migrants — 464 in February and already 1,700 so far in March, Burrow said. Each day, between 100 to 150 migrants are dropped off at the center where volunteers provide food, clothing, some limited necessities and help booking a bus or a plane out of town.

However, before Friday, migrants were getting dropped off without a COVID-19 test and then brought to a bus station or airport to continue their journey, which is directly against all Centers for Disease Control and Prevention guidance. 

A U.S. Customs and Border Protection officer instructs a migrant to walk toward the McAllen-Hidalgo International Bridge while deporting a group of migrants to Mexico.
A US Customs and Border Protection officer instructs a migrant to walk toward the McAllen-Hidalgo International Bridge while deporting a group of migrants to Mexico.
Julio Cortez/AP

“You have this whole administration whose major line item on their platform is a hard stance on COVID-19 and you have this humongous gap in that policy, humongous on ginormous proportion,” Del Rio’s Mayor Bruno Lozano, a democrat, railed to The Post. 

“I don’t think it’s my city’s responsibility to test these migrants, I think it’s the federal government’s responsibility,” Lozano went on. 

“They’re forcing it down our throats.” 

In larger cities along the border like McAllen and Brownsville, the local government has ensured all Border Patrol releases were tested before they entered the community and hotel rooms were purchased so positive migrants could quarantine. 

But in Del Rio, a small town of about 35,000 with a tiny budget that’s hardly enough to support its own citizens, Lozano said they didn’t have that capability. 

“Del Rio was the last sector to get testing done because our funding sources are limited, we’re not as big as Laredo or the [Rio Grande] Valley so the city couldn’t do it, no way,” Lozano said. 

A U.S. Border Patrol agent walks past a part of the fence about half a mile north of the Rio Grande.
A US Border Patrol agent walks past a part of the fence about half a mile north of the Rio Grande.
David Butow/Redux for NY Post

For weeks, CBP, which has a budget of about $14 billion and didn’t return a request for comment, dragged their feet and failed to solve the problem. 

In February, just before a historic winter storm that left millions without power and killed 57 hit the state, Lozano sent a video message to President Biden begging him not to send migrants into his community because he didn’t have the resources to care for them. The request fell on deaf ears and the numbers have only risen since. 

“Normally this place would be just crawling,” Burrow, sitting outside of the respite center on a picnic table, explained as a migrant from Haiti played with her young son behind her.  

“The first three weeks of January there was about 25 a week and now we’re upwards of about 100-150 a day.” 

While Burrow insisted she is not yet at capacity, “the hours have been ridiculous,” she said. 

“I have been working seven days a week. I did have a Saturday off,” Burrow paused. 

“Not last Saturday, but the Saturday before.”

Burrow, who is unpaid like the rest of the volunteers at the coalition, said they need help — not just locally, but from the “state level and national level as well.” 

“At this particular moment we’ve got a shower trailer that all of the pipes were busted during that winter storm and our propane tank was stolen because people needed propane during that time,” Burrow said, gesturing to a large trailer behind her. 

“We’re going to try to run two of them but they will be cold showers only.” 

She pointed to a cement block in the backyard of the respite center that has a hose coming out of it. 

“We’ve had people showering right here,” Burrow said. 

“And we need to give them some dignity.” 

On Monday, The Post visited the facility and saw a young boy eating powdered milk out of a bag and met a family of migrants who fled Port-au-Prince, Haiti three years ago and didn’t make it to the US until Sunday. 

Migrants are seen in custody at a U.S. Customs and Border Protection processing area under the Anzalduas International Bridge, Friday, March 19, 2021, in Mission, Texas.
Migrants are seen in custody at a US Customs and Border Protection processing area under the Anzalduas International Bridge in Mission, Texas.
Julio Cortez/AP

Wadner, 31, and his wife Natcha, 30, told Border Patrol agents why they were claiming asylum. 

“In my country I’ve got a brother that’s 17-years-old that the cartels kidnapped,” Wadner said as he stood beside his wife, who’s four months pregnant. 

“They asked us for $100,000 and when my family didn’t pay in three days, they killed him.” 

The couple headed to Miami late Tuesday where Wadner hopes to find work so he can support his family. 

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