Union: Swine Flu Found in Illegal Immigrant Children
Saturday, June 28, 2014 10:23 PM
By: Todd Beamon
U.S. Border Patrol agents in Texas have discovered four cases of the H1N1 flu strain among illegal immigrant children held at two detention centers in Brownsville in the past two days, National Border Patrol Council Vice President Chris Cabrera told Newsmax on Saturday.
Medical personnel at each of the centers, the Brownsville and Fort Brown Border Patrol stations, confirmed one case each on Friday and Saturday, he said. The minors are 10 to 12 years old.
"Everybody's who been in contact with them now is suspect that they have gotten it," Cabrera said in an interview. "That's what we're dealing with now."
As many as 120 people have been isolated at the two centers after being exposed to the minors, he said. Medical professionals at the detention centers screen illegals for lice, scabies, and chicken pox — but not everyone receives medical clearance, he said.
"We’ve had to quarantine the area and everybody who came in contact with them," he added. Border Patrol officials have also notified federal health officials of the situation — and agents will have to be vaccinated as a precaution.
"The flu can be dangerous, and swine flu even more so," he said. "We're still crowded. We're still overcrowded."
At least one other case of H1N1 flu has been confirmed at the Lackland Air Force Base detention center in San Antonio, according to KGBT-TV news.
Federals officials began housing illegal minors at Lackland in May. More than 1,800 minors have since passed through there. Other illegals are being housed at military bases in Oklahoma and California.
Republicans have expressed fears of rampant disease at the various Border Patrol detention centers and related facilities since huge numbers of illegals — particularly minors traveling alone — have flooded the U.S. border in recent months.
More than 52,000 unaccompanied children have been arrested entering the U.S. illegally since October, with many of them coming from Mexico and such Central American countries as Honduras, Guatemala and El Salvador.
President Barack Obama has dubbed the situation "a humanitarian crisis" — and officials and immigration reform advocates contend that illegals are fleeing violence and poverty in their home countries.
Republicans, however, have attributed the deluge to the White House's lax enforcement of immigration laws. They also point to reports in Central American media touting administration deportation policies that benefit some illegals.
In Texas, Cabrera oversees 2,000 agents at nine Border Patrol detention centers along Rio Grande River in the southern part of the state, from Rio Grande city to Brownsville. The entry points along the river are popular with illegals, as they hope to assimilate quickly into border towns.
His area, which includes McAllen, has seen a tremendous increase in illegals since early last year, primarily in anticipation of comprehensive immigration reform.
By law, illegals arrested by Border Patrol agents must be transferred to the custody of the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services within 72 hours of their arrest. Border patrol falls under the purview of the Department of Homeland Security (DHS).
The illegals are detained at shelters until they can be reunited with family members while awaiting to appear in immigration court. The housing costs taxpayers $252 per child per day.
Cabrera told Newsmax that as many as 2,000 illegals had been arrested by his agents in the previous 24 hours alone. "It would be safe to say that it's in the 2,000 range. That would be my best guess. It's a never-ending flow."
But, now, many illegals are just turning themselves in, he said.
"We're having groups of 50 to 100 turning themselves in. Couple times a day, they're just walking up. Not 50 to 100 throughout the day at one station; we're having — in a 20-minute span — 50 people walking up from the river and turn themselves in.
"It's counted as an apprehension — but in actuality, they're catching us, we're not catching them."
These include thousands of illegal minors — forcing already-strapped U.S. agents to now deal with "disease and viruses" and child-care duties, he said.
When asked to describe the current situation in his region, Cabrera responded, chuckling, "I don't know a clean word for it."
"Everything we do, we can't seem to catch up. A lot of it has been brought on by the administration itself. We, as a whole, have failed to recognize what was going to happen, even though the warning signs were in place.
"Even though our intelligence told us that we were going to be hit with something pretty big, nobody seemed to sound the alarm until after it was already too late — after we were already knee-deep in it.
"Now, we're just struggling to keep our heads above water," he said.
But Cabrera said his agents are seeing a new trend among illegals crossing the border: "makeshift families."
Because U.S. immigration laws are less likely to deport families, illegals traveling alone band together to get a court date and then disperse into the U.S. — never showing up for court.
Cabrera offered a hypothetical example of an adult and a child, each traveling alone.
"The kid knows he doesn't have any parents in the United States, so he's not going to be able to stay. And the adult knows he's traveling alone, so he's not going to be able to stay.
"So, they get together, and they get a little story together and now, they’re a family," Cabrera said. "That's my uncle. That's my brother, my — whoever it is — and they're allowed to go north.
"They're allowed to get a court date, posing as a family, and then, once they get to the nearest bus station after they're released, they part ways.
"You make up a family as long as it's convenient for you — and then, once you don't need it anymore, you part ways."
Cabrera added that he remained wary of a Dallas County judge's decision on Saturday that would move as many as 2,000 illegal minors from McAllen to Dallas by the end of July.
Judge Clay Jenkins said the plan is to have youngsters spend about three weeks in Dallas County before hopefully being placed with relatives who are elsewhere in the U.S.
"Even though they're relieving the strain, it's sending more people farther into the U.S.," Cabrera told Newsmax. "Once they get into the U.S., I don't think they're ever going to leave.
"It's more of an amnesty program. At the end of the day, we're telling them, 'Hey, you can come in' — and once they're past the checkpoint, they'll be reunited with their parents, and we'll never see them again.
"DHS has been very adamant in saying that: 'We're not granting amnesty. It's not an amnesty program.' That's their official stance on it, but if you look at the actions they're doing, nobody's being sent back.
"They're not being held close to the border region," Cabrera added. "They're putting them farther inland. We're facilitating their further entry into the United States — and nobody's going back to their country of origin."
Further, he slammed Democratic House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi's visit to Brownsville on Saturday to view conditions at one of the centers.
"Unfortunately, some people — not everybody — who comes down here now, some people are using it as a political ploy. They're using their clout as a public official — and they're using it for whatever reason. I don't see that as right in the least bit.
"Regardless of what side of the fence I'm on with immigration … the bottom line is there's a crisis down here," Cabrera told Newsmax. "There are these kids flooding the border."