Migrants who cross the border illegally will immediately be returned to their native country instead of being held in detention as U.S. Customs and Border Protection take action to prevent the spread of the novel coronavirus.
CBP said in a phone press conference on Monday that Mexican nationals who illegally cross the border to the U.S. will be returned to Mexico and migrants from other countries will only be held in custody until a flight to their native country arrives, according to Pete Flores, CBP Director of Field Operations in San Diego.
Agents who are on patrol are wearing protective gear like masks and gloves out of an abundance of caution. They are giving out masks to migrants they encounter at the border and are practicing social distancing, according to CBP. All vehicles and facilities are being cleaned each time a new group of people arrives.
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Aaron Heitke, CBP Chief Patrol Agent for the San Diego Sector, said once agents encounter a migrant near the border, a “quick” interview is conducted and fingerprints are scanned. If the individual’s background is cleared of any violent crime, they are taken to the border then returned to their respective country immediately.
Asylum seekers who are attempting to enter the U.S. will be handled on a “case-by-case basis,” the agency said. It is unclear if asylum seekers who came in a group will be held together or individually, but the agency said it will depend on each case.
On Friday, President Donald Trump announced travel restrictions along the U.S.-Mexico border for “non-essential” travel such as for recreation or tourism. CBP has been enforcing that order and said it’s seen a 70% decrease of travel at entry ports.
Migrants who travel non-essentially will not have their Visas or ID’s removed, the agency said.