A group of Texas Republicans has asked Trump administration cabinet members how prepared the United States is in the event a coronavirus outbreak in Latin America leads to a “rush to our border.”
“Given the porous nature of our border, and the continued lack of operational control due to the influence of dangerous cartels, it is foreseeable, indeed predictable, that any outbreak in Central America or Mexico could cause a rush to our border,” the letter states. It’s signed by 10 Republicans in Congress, including U.S. Reps. Chip Roy of San Antonio, Brian Babin of Woodville, Michael Cloud, of Victoria, Louie Gohmert of Tyler, Pete Olsen of Sugar Land and Randy Weber of Friendswood.
The lawmakers concede there is no major present-day outbreak of the deadly strain in Mexico, South America or Central America but note that “it can be presumed that we will see the virus spread further.”
“Over time, this could impose a new burden at our southern border that will threaten the safety and health of individuals in the United States and could cause a humanitarian crisis of epic proportions along our border and at detention facilities,” the letter states. It’s addressed to acting Department of Homeland Security Secretary Chad Wolf, Health and Human Services Secretary Alex Azar and Department of Defense Secretary Mark Esper.
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The lawmakers ask a series of questions about screenings and what the departments have planned for undocumented immigrants who cross the southern border. They also seek information about what may be required in supplemental funding to ensure barriers, roads and other resources would be needed to secure the border. They also ask about potential needs for “housing and medical care for legal and illegal migrants” who test positive for the virus.
The request for information comes the same day the World Health Organization raised its risk assessment to “very high” as the virus continues to spread globally. Mexico has two confirmed cases, one in Mexico City and another in the state of Sinaloa, the Associated Press reported. Both are in isolation.
On Thursday Gov. Greg Abbott met with state officials for a briefing on what agencies are doing to prepare should the virus breach the state’s borders.
“The State of Texas will continue to collaborate with our federal and local partners and will provide our communities with the necessary resources to respond to any potential cases of the coronavirus," Abbott said in a statement after the briefing.