Dem Officials in Border City Say Biden Immigration Policy Poses COVID Threat

Texas city says DHS is releasing migrants daily without testing

A train passes by the Customs and Border Protection office next to the Texas Mexican Railway International Bridge on January 14, 2019 in Laredo, Texas. (Photo by SUZANNE CORDEIRO / AFP) (Photo credit should read SUZANNE CORDEIRO/AFP via Getty Images)
July 20, 2021

The Democrat-run city of Laredo, Texas, claims President Joe Biden's immigration policies blatantly disregard safety protocols implemented to stop the spread of COVID-19 and could risk killing Americans.

The city attorney’s office alleged in a July 16 lawsuit that the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) has been releasing migrants into Laredo daily, a policy that undermines public health. Federal officials told Laredo that Customs and Border Protection plans on doubling the number of migrants brought to the city to manage overflow at other DHS facilities, according to the complaint.

"Not every apprehended person is tested for COVID-19 as part of [DHS’s] processing procedure before they are legally released from immigration custody and into the general public," the lawsuit says. "Therefore, many, if not most, go untested and risk spreading the disease to … the general public after their release."

Laredo’s lawsuit comes as the Biden administration struggles with a surge of the COVID-19 Delta variant. Situated directly on the southern border, with an almost 100 percent Latino population, the city claims the "flood" of migrants "has caused irreparable harm and injury to our community given little to no hospital availability." The Delta variant makes up a majority of new coronavirus cases in the United States and Latin America.

The White House did not return a request for comment.

The city is asking federal courts to block DHS from transporting migrants to the city, as well as a permanent order barring migrant arrivals until Laredo shelters have the capacity to accommodate them. Rising coronavirus outbreaks in detention facilities have prompted fears from Border Protection and DHS agents tasked with processing migrants.

Biden has blamed Republican officials and social media sites for hindering pandemic health measures and vaccination efforts. But the historically high number of migrants from around the world attempting to cross into the country could constitute the largest risk to public health. The number of migrants who tested positive for COVID-19 increased by roughly 340 percent between March and May. Among Democrats in Laredo, the strain on public resources means even allies of the Biden administration feel compelled to take legal action to avert what they believe could be a catastrophe. 

"Unfortunately, the federal government has left this public health concern to be tackled by our local government with no consideration of the city’s little to no resources nor regard for the deadly ramifications it could have on the country," the lawsuit says.

The outcry from Democrats in Laredo has yet to deter administration officials. The White House is working to repeal Title 42, a Centers for Disease Control-directed law that gives the federal government broad authority to stop migrants from entering the country. Homeland Security Secretary Alejandro Mayorkas called the law ineffective in a June memo. But congressional Republicans warned Biden on June 25 that ending Title 42 would cause "the border crisis [to] reach an irreversible climax." 

"Without Title 42, the already inundated facilities would explode with migrants, and our nation would suffer lasting and irreparable consequences," a group of Republican lawmakers wrote in a letter to Department of Health and Human Services Secretary Xavier Becerra.

The Department of Homeland Security did not respond to a request for comment.