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Sat Apr 18, 2020, 08:09 AM

Scant testing in US migration system risks spreading virus

Source: Associated Press

Scant testing in US migration system risks spreading virus

By SONIA PÉREZ D., NOMAAN MERCHANT, BEN FOX and MICHAEL WEISSENSTEIN
April 18, 2020

GUATEMALA CITY (AP) — The Trump administration’s failure to test all but a small percentage of detained immigrants for the novel coronavirus may be helping it spread through the United States’ sprawling system of detention centers and then to Central America and elsewhere aboard regular deportation flights, migrants’ advocates said Friday.

The discovery of numerous COVID-19 cases among deportees on a flight that arrived this week prompted Guatemalan President Alejandro Giammattei to tell Guatemalans in a national address on Friday he was suspending such flights — a step his foreign minister had mentioned earlier to reporters.

Just 400 detainees in the U.S. out of more than 32,000 have been tested so far, according to testimony that Matthew Albence, the acting director of U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement, gave Friday to a congressional committee. The House Committee on Oversight and Reform said that Albence “also confirmed that ICE does not routinely test detainees before deporting them.”

More than 1,600 people deported from the United States to Guatemala over the last month were allowed to go home and into voluntary, unenforced quarantine. Fears are rising that it may have seeded the Central American nation with an untold number of undetected cases, increasing its vulnerability to the pandemic.

U.S. authorities took passengers’ temperatures before departure, and Guatemalan officials checked them for cough, fever and other symptoms on arrival. Those with possible COVID-19 symptoms had their mucous and saliva tested, but apparently healthy deportees underwent no testing and were allowed to head home even if they arrived on a flight with sick people.

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Read more: https://apnews.com/164e0389a95bd646116b077f7d1897c9

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