USA to test some immigrants for coronavirus before deportation


Mexico and Haiti have detected coronavirus infections in migrants recently deported from the United States, officials said Tuesday, as part of a growing trend of contagion among deportees.

The new infections come after an outbreak of deportees to Guatemala, where last weekend the government linked nearly a fifth of all cases of the new corona virus in the country to flights that migrants returned from the United States last week.

All three affected countries have far fewer confirmed cases of the disease than the United States.

Three Haitians who arrived in the Caribbean country two weeks ago tested positive for quarantine, a health ministry official told Reuters. The flight had raised concerns from human rights lawyers concerned about the virus’s exports to the poorest country in the Western Hemisphere.

In the Mexican border town of Nuevo Laredo, a Houston deported man infected 14 others at the asylum of the Catholic Church in Nazareth, authorities and the city’s bishop said. Authorities say Cubans, Mexicans, Hondurans, and a Cameroonian migrant who contracted the virus. The 15 who tested positive, including three children aged 16 years and under, were placed in isolation, the reception authorities said.

It is not clear where the deportees contracted the virus, but the new cases have resulted in deportations being suspended unless the US authorities can test migrants before leaving the country.

Employees of some U.S. migrant deportation and detention centers have tested positive for the virus, U.S. immigration and customs officials said.

Rachel Schmidtke, Refugees International’s advocate for Latin America, said that although the source of the infections was not yet known, detaining migrants in crowded detention centers increased the risk of contracting the virus.

“No one should be deported unless they have been tested and they test negative for Covid-19,” said Schmidtke.

Haiti has only 57 confirmed cases of Covid-19 so far. Haiti’s Prime Minister, Joseph Jouthe, said this week a new flight with more than 100 Haitian deportees.

“These are Haitians, they are coming home, we have to accept them,” he told a local radio station. Jouthe was not talking about the infections on the previous flight.

Democrat US representative Andy Levin said on Twitter that the new flight to Haiti should be halted to prevent the disease from spreading any further.

“These deportations are immoral and endanger both Americans and Haitians,” he wrote.

Guatemala has temporarily suspended the flights, while officials from the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) review the test results of a April 13 deportation flight to Guatemala.

Guatemalan President Alejandro Giammattei said on Monday that a total of 51 migrants deported to the Central American country by the United States have tested positive for the corona virus.

Neither the CDC, nor the United States Department of Homeland Security, which oversees deportations, has commented on the number of cases among deportees.

“Assessment is good practice when laboratory or epidemiological results deviate from previous expectations,” said CDC spokeswoman Jasmine Reed Monday.

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