Indian illegal immigrant caught trying to cross border tests positive for coronavirus

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An illegal immigrant from India who tried to cross the southern border illegally later tested positive for the novel coronavirus, the Trump administration said on Friday.

“Last Thursday, @CBP apprehended an Indian national trying to cross the SW border illegally,” Acting Homeland Security Secretary Chad Wolf said. “Noticing #coronavirus symptoms, astute CBP Agents quickly isolated this individual - who later tested positive. The individual had limited contact with CBP personnel and other migrants.”

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In a statement, Customs and Border Protection (CBP) said the 31-year-old was apprehended along with three Mexicans who crossed near Calexico, Calif. The three Mexicans were “rapidly returned” to Mexico and the Indian national has since been transferred to Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) custody. The man is the first illegal immigrant to test positive for the virus at the border.

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In fiscal year 2019, Border Patrol apprehended 7,675 Indian nationals at the southern border, and officials have long warned of migrants from countries outside Central and South America trying to take advantage of a porous southern U.S. border.

The Trump administration has been amping up its efforts to secure the border, particularly amid the coronavirus pandemic. It has continued with border wall construction, while closing off non-essential travel at the land border.

ICE RELEASING HUNDREDS OF ILLEGAL IMMIGRANTS DUE TO CORONAVIRUS RISK

It is also now turning away and quickly returning illegal immigrants and asylum seekers to their home countries as part of the effort to reduce infections and keep processing centers sparsely populated. ICE has also released a number of illegal immigrants, who are identified as being more vulnerable to the virus and its effects.

Acting CBP Commissioner Mark Morgan noted that processing centers represent a danger both to migrants and officials, and said that was why the Centers for Disease Control has given CBP authority to rapidly return migrants to their home countries.

“Can you imagine if we were navigating this pandemic during this time last year, when we had more than 20,000 migrants in our custody? It would have overwhelmed our processing centers and stations, and crippled the healthcare system along the border,” he said.

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Morgan told Fox News last month that his agency has "almost immediately" been returning about 85 percent of those they encounter on the southwest border.

"Literally, in just a few short weeks, our holding facilities dropped by almost 97 percent. Pre the order, we were sitting at about 3,500 in our holding facilities and literally now, we have less than 100," he told Fox News.

Fox News’ Sam Dorman contributed to this report.