Mark A. Morgan, the acting U.S. Customs and Border Protection commissioner, described a dangerous scene at the U.S.’ southern border on Thursday and said 10 border agents have died “in the line of duty” due to the coronavirus.
Morgan said at a press conference that overall, border crossings are down by about half when compared to last year. But he said his agents have faced serious health risks when responding to these illegal immigrants where one infected person can infect hundreds of others.
“Migrants continue to ignore their countries’ stay-at-home guidance as well as they continue to ignore the guidance of global medical experts,” Morgan said, according to the Washington Post. “We must secure our borders from illegal aliens who show their complete disregard of even the most basic application of health and safety.”
Morgan also said that his agents are transporting some stricken illegal immigrants to U.S. hospitals for treatment, according to the Center for Immigration Studies.
“If anyone’s showing signs or symptoms, we’re going to provide them that appropriate test. We’ll take them to the local healthcare provider, and we’ve done that,” Morgan said.
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Morgan defended the agency’s use of Title 42 of the federal health code, which allows his agents to expel migrants arrested along the border within hours.
The ACLU announced in June that it would challenge the Trump administration’s use of the code and called its use by the agency an “unprecedented and unlawful invocation of the Public Health Service Act.”
“The Trump administration is hiding behind COVID-19 as a way to send children back to grave danger,” Lee Gelernt, an ACLU lawyer, said in a statement. “Like Trump’s horrendous family separation policy, the courts should conclude this latest attack on children is illegal.”
Morgan said the code—which the agency has been employing since March—has allowed his agents some protection from contracting the virus because jails are emptier.
“There is no doubt that Title 42 has prevented more tragic loss among our own workforce,” he said.