A Texas border town and the federal government have reached a deal that stops the transfer of illegal immigrants to the border community, according to a report.
Laredo Mayor Pete Saenz told The Monitor that, under the agreement, illegal immigrants transferred to the border town from the Rio Grande Valley will no longer remain in Laredo but will instead be released to city staff and bussed to places like Austin, Dallas, and Houston.
Saenz told The Monitor that, under the deal, the city is not required to test the individuals for COVID-19 before transporting them to other Texas locations.
“The reason why we don’t do testing is that once you test, there’s an obligation,” Saenz told the outlet. “If they’re positive, we’re told that you have to quarantine. We don’t have the infrastructure for that.
“I know some people may say, ‘You’re basically transporting untested people to other cities.’ And the answer is, ‘Yes.’ But what alternative do we have here, locally?” Saenz told the outlet, adding that no ICU beds were available in Laredo hospitals over the past seven days.
“We’ve had people in overflow, basically waiting for a hospital bed out in the hallways. I think today we had close to 40 just waiting for a room,” he said, adding that it will be up to authorities at the various destination points to carry out testing and provide safety measures.
The Epoch Times has reached out to the Laredo mayor’s office with a request for comment and further details on the settlement.
The agreement ends a lawsuit brought by the city of Laredo in July against the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) that sought to block the agency from transferring illegal immigrants from the Rio Grande Valley to locations in Laredo when a rise in COVID-19 infections in the city strained hospital resources and limited shelter capacity.
City officials said in court documents that local NGOs assisting illegal immigrants were overwhelmed and that there was a rise in the number of people being released without COVID-19 testing, posing a risk to the community.
“As Laredo is an underserved medical community with limited resources, it simply cannot accommodate a surge in COVID-19 positives,” the court document states.
Laredo officials said in the complaint that the Biden administration was causing “irreparable harm” with the flood of illegal immigrants being dispersed into the community.
DHS didn’t respond to an earlier request for comment on the lawsuit from The Epoch Times.
On Thursday, DHS Secretary Alejandro Mayorkas visited the Texas border towns of McAllen and Brownsville, where he met with local leaders and reiterated that “the situation at the border is a priority” for the agency.
“At the very outset, I want to communicate very clearly that the situation at the border is one of the toughest challenges we face. It is complicated, changing, and involves vulnerable people at a time of a global pandemic,” Mayorkas said at a briefing in Brownsville.
The DHS chief also shared statistics on apprehensions along the border, saying that, in July, 212,672 people were caught trying to cross into the United States illegally, a 13 percent increase over June. He added that 45 percent of the illegal immigrants apprehended in July were immediately expelled under Title 42 authority.
Mayorkas also outlined the administration’s efforts to address the problem, which he said involves a combination of push and pull factors—enhancing enforcement while also seeking to tackle some of the factors that drive people to leave their homes.
“Our plan has four pivotal parts: addressing the root causes, rebuilding and building safe, legal, and orderly pathways for migrants to apply for relief under our laws, without having to take the burden perilous journey north, improving security management, processing and other measures at our border, and attacking the smugglers,” he said.
Charlotte Cuthbertson contributed to this report.