(Trends Wide) — The Department of Homeland Security (DHS) needs to improve its prevention measures against covid-19 on the border between the United States and Mexico, according to a recently published report by the department’s inspector general.
“Without stronger covid-19 prevention measures, DHS is putting its workforce, support staff, communities and migrants at greater risk of contracting the virus,” concluded the report, which comes amid the pandemic. world.
The review, conducted between March and May, uncovered several problems with the agency’s Covid-19 management efforts on the southwestern United States border.
The report noted that US Customs and Border Protection (CBP) – which is overseen by DHS and is responsible for short-term detention of migrants – cannot maintain adequate physical distancing in detention facilities due to the number of migrants entering the United States illegally and the inability of other government agencies to quickly take custody of migrants. Prolonged time in custody leads to overcapacity and overcrowding at Border Patrol stations.
Additionally, the covid-19 testing process for families who have left CBP custody “is not effective because municipalities cannot force families to isolate themselves during the required quarantine period,” according to the report.
CBP is not required to test for COVID-19 and does not test for migrants entering custody. Instead, the agency relies on local public health systems to assess symptomatic individuals.
The established process to obtain evidence for migrants “may not always be operationally feasible, especially during an influx of migrant crossings at the southwestern border,” according to the report. In a U.S. Border Patrol region, agents told the watchdog that relying solely on local health systems in remote border communities is not a sustainable test plan.
A DHS spokesperson told Trends Wide – in a statement Wednesday – that “CBP provides migrants with PPE from the moment they are detained, and migrants must wear masks at all times, including when transferred or in process. release “.
“If someone exhibits signs of illness in CBP custody, they are referred to local health systems for proper testing, diagnosis, and treatment. CBP takes its responsibility to prevent the spread of communicable diseases very seriously.” the statement continued.
The watchdog recommended that the Department re-evaluate its COVID-19 response framework to address areas for improvement and that the DHS secretary ensure that component agencies continue to coordinate with the DHS medical director and are provided with resources. necessary to operate safely and effectively.
DHS agreed with both recommendations.