Homeland Security Secretary Alejandro Mayorkas admitted there have been “instances” where the federal government released migrants at the US-Mexico border into the country without first testing them for the coronavirus.
During a hearing with the House Homeland Security Committee Wednesday, Georgia Rep. Andrew Clyde grilled Mayorkas on the issue, noting that the US requires that all international travelers show they’d tested negative for COVID-19 within three days before entering the country.
“There appears to be a more lenient standard for foreign national crossing our border illegally than for American citizens,” Clyde charged.
“Can you assure the American people that no one who has been apprehended is released into our communities with the — that still test positive for COVID-19?”
A migrant from Central America gets his Covid-19 test after he is dropped off by the US Customs and Border Protection at a bus station near the Gateway International Bridge.Chandan Khanna /AFP via Getty Images
Mayorkas replied that “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 address them.”
He added: “We have addressed that situation.”
The Republican congressman pushed back, pointing out at least two instances in Brownsville, Texas and Yuma, Arizona where migrants that had tested positive for the virus were released into those communities.
“There were instances in which individuals were released,” Mayorkas admitted in response.
Larissa Bautista Hernandez, 2, second from left, a migrant from Honduras, is carried by her mother, Irma Hernandez, left, as her father, Jose Frankis Bautista, right, heads into a taxi cab at a bus station, Wednesday, March 17, 2021, in Brownsville, Texas.Julio Cortez/AP
The DHS head said those instances had resulted in “additional practices” being enacted by the agency “to plug any hole.”
“It is our policy to test individuals who are apprehended in between the ports of entry, and if in fact they test positive, to quarantine them,” Mayorkas said.