Alleged drug smuggler has COVID-19 and ties to cartel, CBP says

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The Border Patrol and Department of Homeland Security are accused of endangering the lives of pregnant women in their custody.

EL PASO, Texas (Border Report) — South Texas border agents arrested a suspected cartel smuggler who ended up testing positive for the coronavirus, U.S. Customs and Border Protection announced Tuesday.

On May 8, Border Patrol agents from the Rio Grande Valley Sector said they encountered two Mexican men engaged in a drug-smuggling operation in Escobares, a tiny border town in rural Starr County, Texas.

The agents arrested both men and took them to the Rio Grande City Station, where one complained of having migraines. He was taken to a hospital, where he tested positive for the coronavirus.

Agents, personnel and contract staff who had contact with the man were evaluated and found to have low to minimal exposure, the release said. They haven’t shown any adverse signs or symptoms, but they have been directed to follow CDC guidelines on monitoring and quarantine if necessary.

In a statement, CBP Acting Commissioner Mark Morgan said border-security efforts are vital to containing the spread of COVID-19 and protecting the American people during this pandemic.

“These measures are working,” Morgan said. “Our Border Patrol agents risk their lives every day and, in this case, they did their jobs and ensured these smugglers could not successfully enter the United States. Think about the alternative. Potentially endless exposure and spread of the virus to innocent Americans with likely disastrous consequences from unscrupulous smugglers. This is yet another example of why COVID-19 policies are so critical to the health and safety of the American people.”

Last week, Morgan said the U.S. policy of quickly expelling migrants apprehended along the U.S.-Mexico border may have to stay in place even after coronavirus quarantine restrictions ease up around the country.

This is the second individual in CBP custody to test positive for the coronavirus. An Indian man tested positive for the coronavirus after he was caught crossing the border illegally on April 23 near Calexico, Calif. Another man from Mexico was detained after he tried to enter the U.S. to seek medical attention.

As for the alleged smuggler, since late 2018, he’s been arrested by the Border Patrol three previous times. CBP said he will remain in quarantine for observation before his return to Mexico. The second individual was asymptomatic and was returned to Mexico, CBP said.

During the May 8 encounter, agents also seized 200 rounds of .50-caliber ammunition, which was turned over to ATF.

Visit the BorderReport.com homepage for the latest exclusive stories and breaking news about issues along the United States-Mexico border.

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