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DHS watchdog says COVID procedures at southwestern border are endangering staff and migrants

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The Department of Homeland Security (DHS) needs stronger COVID-19 protocols at the southwestern border, according to a new report by the DHS Inspector General (IG).

“Without stronger measures in place, DHS is putting its workforce, support staff, communities, and migrants at greater risk for contracting the virus. We acknowledge the difficulty balancing protective measures with the primary mission of securing the border. However, DHS must be prepared to meet the challenges of the COVID-19 pandemic,” according to the report.

MIGRANT NUMBERS UNDER TEXAS BRIDGE DOUBLE TO 8,000+ IN 24 HOURS: ‘OUT OF CONTROL’

The report also asserts that U.S. Customs and Border Patrol (CBP), which falls under DHS, “is not able to maintain proper physical distancing in holding facilities due to the current number of migrants illegally entering the United States.” 

Another problem is that mask protocols that are not being followed by migrants. The report states, “Migrants are constantly reminded of COVID-19 risk but choose not to social distance or wear provided masks.”

Over 8,000 migrants gathered under a bridge in Del Rio, Texas, after crossing the border illegally.

Over 8,000 migrants gathered under a bridge in Del Rio, Texas, after crossing the border illegally.

“Additionally, during one interview with a CBP supervisory Border Patrol agent from a southwest border processing center, the agent raised specific concerns regarding the health and safety of the CBP staff and migrants. The agent stated that because CBP does not have a COVID-19 testing policy, UCs (unaccompanied child) are held in pods in close proximity with other potentially positive UCs. Moreover, in some instances due to HHS being at capacity, UCs were in CBP custody for more than 20 days without being tested for COVID-19.”

The report concludes that the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) stresses the importance of testing, isolating and contact tracing measures to control the spread of COVID-19. 

“DHS leadership must commit to strengthening these COVID-19 preventative measures,” says the IG, which is also recommending DHS “reassess its COVID-19 response framework to identify areas for improvement to mitigate the spread of COVID-19 while balancing its primary mission of securing the border.”

DRONE FOOTAGE SHOWS THOUSANDS OF MIGRANTS UNDER BRIDGE IN DEL RIO, TEXAS AS LOCAL FACILITIES OVERWHELMED 

Even though about 30% of immigrants held at federal detention facilities are refusing to be vaccinated, the Biden administration is not mandating the vaccine for migrants who cross the border. In contrast, Biden announced last week that American employers with over 100 employees will be required to mandate the vaccine for workers, or face a hefty fine.

The IG report also comes after the CBP announced Wednesday that there were 208,887 encounters in August. Although it is a slight dip from July, it represents a 317% increase over August 2020 numbers. Of those encounters, 44% resulted in an expulsion under Title 42 public health protections, but just 19% of the more than 86,000 family unit encounters ended in a Title 42 expulsion.

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Fox News has also obtained drone footage of thousands of migrants under the International Bridge in Del Rio, Texas just this week. Border Patrol and law enforcement sources told Fox News that over 4,200 migrants were waiting to be apprehended under the bridge after crossing into the United States on Wednesday. 

That number under the bridge doubled to over 8,200 in just 24 hours, according to sources.

Fox News’ Adam Shaw and Bill Melugin contributed to this report.

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