The rate at which coronavirus-positive border crossers are arriving in the United States has “increased significantly,” according to President Joe Biden’s Department of Homeland Security (DHS).
David Shahoulian, DHS’s assistant secretary for border and immigration policy, admitted in a court brief filed this week that the agency has seen “significantly increased rates” of coronavirus-positive border crossers arriving at the U.S.-Mexico border, spurring “extremely worrisome” conditions at border facilities.
Shahoulian writes in the brief:
As explained in more detail below, the United States is currently encountering record numbers of noncitizens, including families, at the border. These encounter rates have strained DHS operations and caused border facilities to be filled beyond their normal operating capacity, impacting the ability to employ social distancing in these congregate settings. At the same time, DHS is also experiencing significantly increased rates of noncitizens testing positive for COVID19. In light of these and other considerations, enjoining the application of the CDC Order to families would exacerbate overcrowding at DHS facilities and create significant public health risks. [Emphasis added]
This risk has recently increased due to the recent spread of the highly transmissible COVID-19 Delta variant. The rates at which encountered noncitizens are testing positive for COVID-19 have increased significantly in recent weeks. And although the rate of infection among CBP officers had been declining, this rate recently began increasing again, even though the percentage of officers and agents who have been fully vaccinated has grown significantly since January. This has led to increasing numbers of CBP personnel being isolated and hospitalized. [Emphasis added]
Shahoulian also admits in the brief that as of August 1, the U.S. Border Patrol was nearly 400 percent overcapacity. Specifically, Border Patrol had nearly 18,000 border crossers in its custody despite a coronavirus-adjusted capacity limit for about 4,700 border crossers.
“These capacity figures are extremely worrisome,”