The U.S. Border Patrol’s San Diego-area office had no immediate response Tuesday to a published report that the federal government plans to begin turning back all asylum seekers at the U.S.-Mexico line over concerns about the worsening coronavirus pandemic.
The border-enforcement agency has had no local discussions about Tuesday’s report in The New York Times, which attributed the information to four unnamed Trump administration officials, Supervisor USBP Agent Jeff Stephenson said.
According to the Times, a quartet of Washington officials said the plan for new, more stringent immigration rules — set to be announced within 48 hours — was based on a belief that the nation “cannot risk allowing the coronavirus to spread through detention facilities” and the ranks of the Border Patrol.
The southern ports of entry would, however, remain open to American citizens, holders of green cards, foreigners with approved documentation, and commercial traffic, the anonymous sources said.
Noting that the particulars could change prior to the expected changes, administration officials said the measure was needed to prevent a possible “system-wide outbreak” of coronavirus infection inside border-area detention facilities, since “many of the migrants who cross the border are already sick” or cannot sufficiently document their medical histories.
The San Diego-area Border Patrol spokesman, who said he was familiar with the Times’ report, declined to comment on it in advance of any official administration announcement on the topic.