/ Modified apr 21, 2020 12:08 p.m.

US extends CDC health protocol to speed deportations at the border

The order will remain until May 20 at least.

CBP covid sasabe U.S. Border Patrol agents near Sasabe, Arizona, March 22.
Jerry Glaser/CBP/Flickr

The U.S. government has extended for another month the health protocols it used to quickly deport people crossing the border illegally. The order will remain until May 20 at least.

The order is slated to be published Wednesday in the Federal Register and calls for the prevention of entry of anyone from any country where a communicable disease exists.

"Since the March 20, 2020 Order, rapid testing for COVID-19 has been developed that can provide results in approximately 15 minutes and manufacturers are currently ramping up production and distribution of rapid COVID-19 testing. Although rapid COVID-19 testing could ameliorate some of the public health concerns associated with congregate detention in DHS border facilities, rapid COVID19 testing is not yet widely available, and demand outstrips supply," wrote Robert McGowan, chief of staff for the CDC.

"Moreover, once it is available, rapid COVID-19 testing should be prioritized to certain key locations, such as hospitals treating high numbers of COVID-19 patients, where the ability to quickly determine whether doctors and nurses have been infected with COVID-19 could increase the availability of care providers by eliminating the need for these individuals to self-isolate while awaiting test results," he wrote.

Kelly Overton runs a nonprofit organization in the border cities of Mexicali and Calexico called Border Kindness. He says even before the CDC rule went into effect, people were finding it increasingly tough to apply for asylum in the U.S. Then the pandemic hit.

"It’s been frustrating. Asylum seekers are like anywhere else. You’re just kind of told, sit in a room for a month or two, that’s difficult," he said.

Some asylum seekers who’ve waited in Mexico for a shot at asylum here waited for months under the so-called Migration Protection Protocols that slowed the number of people. The program was suspended at the onset.

"All of a sudden to have that process stop completely, to where there’s no new information, everything’s on hold, it’s almost tortuous," he said.

Last week, more than 100 rights groups asked the U.S. to do away with the CDC order and accused the government of using the pandemic to do away with asylum.

Fronteras Desk
Fronteras Desk is a KJZZ project covering important stories in an expanse stretching from Northern Arizona deep into northwestern Mexico.
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