Jul 13, 2020
On March 21, as the coronavirus was spreading like wildfire in the U.S., the Trump administration declared that it would effectively shut the borders to migrants and asylum seekers, because of the “serious danger” of infection coming from abroad.
This was already a baldfaced lie in March, since the outbreak was much worse in the U.S. than it was in any of the Central American countries most migrants were coming from. The declaration was one more excuse Trump used to blame migrants for bringing the disease here.
Reality has been just the opposite of what the administration claimed. After it closed the border, ICE warehoused migrants in crowded jails where social distancing is impossible. It then deported thousands back to Central America, without giving most of them tests. Of course, many of these deportees were infected, spreading the disease to Central America.
The numbers of people with COVID-19 being deported to the Central American country of Guatemala reached such proportions that it put a limit on how many deportees it would accept back from the U.S. From 4,000 people a month, Guatemala is now only accepting 400 a month—meaning thousands of migrants are stuck in ICE jails where the virus is spreading rapidly. One told the Miami Herald: “Me and so many Guatemalans have been ready; we are dying to get deported at this point. If not, we’ll end up dying behind these bars instead.”
Guatemala also began testing deportees when they arrived, refusing to accept people who test positive. One immigration lawyer reported that four people deported to Guatemala the last week of June tested positive, so Guatemala refused them entry. They were then flown back to the U.S., where, instead of treating them, ICE tried to deport them to Guatemala again a few days later!
The U.S. government, led by Trump, is quick to point fingers at others in all situations. But this blaming of migrants for allowing the virus to spread unchecked when they are its worst victims is even more deplorable than usual.