WH: Claim That COVID-Positive Migrants Are Being Released into U.S. Communities ‘Not Factual’

By Melanie Arter | March 4, 2021 | 4:38pm EST
Migrants hold a demonstration demanding clearer United States migration policies, at San Ysidro crossing port in Tijuana, Baja California state, Mexico on March 2, 2021. (Photo by GUILLERMO ARIAS/AFP via Getty Images)
Migrants hold a demonstration demanding clearer United States migration policies, at San Ysidro crossing port in Tijuana, Baja California state, Mexico on March 2, 2021. (Photo by GUILLERMO ARIAS/AFP via Getty Images)

(CNSNews.com) – The White House on Thursday disputed claims by Texas Gov. Greg Abbott that the Biden administration is releasing hundreds of illegal immigrants who have COVID-19 into communities throughout the states.

“The Biden Administration is recklessly releasing hundreds of illegal immigrants who have COVID into Texas communities. The Biden Admin. must IMMEDIATELY end this callous act that exposes Texans & Americans to COVID,” Abbott tweeted Wednesday.

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“The Biden administration has been releasing immigrants in South Texas that have been exposing Texans to COVID. Some of those people have been put on buses, taking that COVID to other states in the United States,” the governor told CNBC. “That is Neanderthal-type approach to dealing with the COVID situation.” 

“We’re about facts around here. That is not factual, so let me give you an overview of what happens,” White House Press Secretary Jen Psaki said at Thursday’s White House press briefing when asked to comment on Abbott’s claim and to explain what the government is doing to test migrants.

“When migrants are placed in alternatives to detention, their COVID-19 testing-- our policy is for COVID-19 testing to be done at the state and local level and with the help of NGOs and local governments, and that’s certainly something that our policy is, is to have that be done, concluded before they are even moved to go stay with family members or others they may know while their cases are being adjudicated,” she said.

“And of course, our guidance to anyone regardless of status is testing positive for COVID-19 or experiencing COVID-like symptoms is you know to social distance, to wear a mask and seek medical attention as needed, but in general, our approach and our policy is to work with local governments, work with NGOs to ensure—to have testing, to make sure these migrants are tested, and that can take place and that steps for isolation, quarantining and medical care can be taken should that be needed,” Psaki said.

When asked why the burden is on state and local jurisdictions test migrants for COVID instead of the federal government, the press secretary said, “Many of these NGOs have stepped in to help ensure that these steps can be taken. 

“Many of these NGOs have also, if quarantining or isolation is needed, have even reserved hotel blocks in some cases, and you certainly have to talk to some of them about the steps they take, but obviously, they’re assistance allows the federal government to work with local communities to get this done,” Psaki said.

A reporter noted that 96 percent of the HHS beds for unaccompanied minors are already accounted for. She asked whether the administration is planning to open new facilities for them perhaps at military bases or installations like they’ve done in the past.

“I’m not in a position to confirm the specific numbers,” Psaki said. “I can say that there are of course a large number of unaccompanied minors that are coming across the border, and as you know, ‘cause we’ve talked about it in here, we believe that the humane approach is to treat these kids with humanity and ensure that they have a safe place to be. 

“I don’t have anything to preview for you in terms of considerations underway at this point and time, but obviously we recognize that with the number that are coming in and the limited facilities we have and our desire to abide by COVID protocols that it’s a policy process that is imperative and a priority for this administration,” she said. 

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