Questions remain about relocation of COVID-positive migrants to NC

FILE - In this Thursday, June 10, 2021, file photo, a pair of migrant families pass through a gap in the border wall to reach the United States after crossing from Mexico to Yuma, Ariz. (AP Photo/Eugene Garcia, File)

RALEIGH — Concerns about whether COVID-19-positive migrants are coming North Carolina have gone unanswered by Gov. Roy Cooper and the Biden administration.

On March 11, the state’s eight Republican members of Congress sent a letter to Gov. Roy Cooper on the issue.

“We write to express our concerns regarding the Department of Homeland Security’s (DHS) recent changes to our nation’s border security policies, which have put North Carolinians at risk. The surge of migrants can be directly attributed to the Biden administration’s decisions to halt the Migrant Protection Protocols program, suspend border wall system construction, weaken immigration enforcement, and implement ‘catch and release’ at the border. These divisive policies rolled back President Trump’s successful efforts to control our border. Simply put, these policies are reckless and are putting our constituents in danger,” part of the letter read.

The members’ letter referenced a number of media reports that DHS released hundreds of illegal immigrants infected with COVID-19 into the interior of the United States, including being placed on charter buses heading from Texas to North Carolina.

“There has been no explanation to justify releasing COVID-positive migrants into our communities,” the letter continued.

A month later, U.S. Rep. Richard Hudson (NC-08) followed up with a letter to Vice President Kamala Harris to obtain more information about the situation at the border.

According to Hudson’s office, he asked whether unaccompanied children are required to quarantine or test negative for COVID-19 prior to being released to a sponsor in order to prevent potential community exposure or spread of COVID-19.

His office said that letter went unanswered as well.

Most recently, Hudson tweeted that “The Biden administration has discussed more restrictions on vaccinated Americans than illegal immigrants, who they are also transporting around our country. To remain serious about combating COVID-19, we must end the worsening #BidenBorderCrisis.”

During a press briefing on July 21, Cooper answered a question posed by North State Journal about whether COVID-positive illegal immigrants have indeed been transported to the state.

“I have not seen that information,” he responded.

The concerns expressed are due to the large increase in border encounters in the first six months of 2021.

In this chart, FY 2021 border encounters are up significantly compared to previous years. Design by Lauren Rose, North State Journal

In June, Customs and Border Protection (CBP) reported over 188,000 migrant encounters at the southern border. That represents a rise from May — in which there were over 180,000 — and over 1 million in the federal fiscal year.

The increases have been notable since President Joe Biden rolled back most of former President Donald Trump’s southern border policies. For comparison, just 33,049 migrants were encountered at the southern border in June 2020.

“We are in the hottest part of the summer, and we are seeing a high number of distress calls to CBP from migrants abandoned in treacherous terrain by smugglers with no regard for human life,” CBP acting Commissioner Troy Miller said in a recent statement to Fox News.

“Although CBP does everything it can to locate and rescue individuals who are lost or distressed, the bottom line is this: The terrain along the border is extreme, the summer heat is severe, and the miles of desert migrants must hike after crossing the border in many areas are unforgiving.”

U.S. Rep. Madison Cawthorn (NC-11) introduced a bill that would forbid the use of federal funds to compensate airlines that transport illegal immigrants throughout the country, according to the Washington Examiner.

That legislation, which is titled the No-Fly for Illegals Act, would ban the government from funding migrant air travel for any unlawful person in the United States, the outlet said.

“Illegal immigrants are being flown to, and relocated across, our once secure nation with no regard to our nation’s laws or families safety,” Cawthorn said in a statement. “I’m deeply troubled by the reports regarding the crisis at our southern border and the dangerous and unlawful immigration policies of the Biden administration. I refuse to watch illegal aliens be unlawfully flown and relocated to our beautiful states on the taxpayer’s dollar.”

The last time there were 1 million reported border encounters was in the 2006 fiscal year. Government estimates indicate that CBP agencies expect to encounter 2 million migrants the 2021 fiscal year.