3 buses of migrants not tested for COVID-19 dropped off in Austin


AUSTIN (KXAN) — The city of Laredo, Texas, recently bussed migrants who were not tested for COVID-19 into Austin, city officials said.

According to Austin’s Department of Homeland Security and Emergency Management, the city learned over the weekend that three buses of migrants were being dropped off at a local Greyhound station.

A city of Laredo spokesperson told KXAN that Laredo is spending around $8,000 a day to send migrants on charter buses to other large cities. The spokesperson said the city is doing so because hospitals are at capacity in Laredo in the midst of the COVID-19 surge. Laredo is a southern Texas city on the Mexican border.

According to Laredo Mayor Pete Saenz, about 16% of migrants coming into Laredo were testing positive for COVID-19, and the city no longer has room to isolate them or give them hospital beds. Therefore, Laredo is no longer testing migrants coming across the border for COVID-19, but rather only providing them with masks and sending them to other cities.

“These migrants aren’t being tested. Border Patrol doesn’t test them. We, much less, don’t have the infrastructure of testing and quarantining,” Saenz told KXAN’s Border Report bureau. “When you test, then if they’re positive, then there’s an obligation there or duty to quarantine, and that’s expensive.”

Laredo officials said many of the people being bussed out of Laredo have plans to travel somewhere else. City leaders in both Laredo and Austin expect most will quickly head to their final destinations after arriving in Austin. However, both cities acknowledged that some may not have anywhere to go, and may stay in Austin.

HSEM said the city of Austin is not testing anyone who stays. That would likely be up to any nonprofits or other organizations that choose to help or house them.

KXAN checked with a number of charitable organizations to see if any are assisting the migrants bussed in from Laredo.

Catholic Charities of Central Texas told KXAN it was made aware of the migrants arriving from Laredo very recently.

In a statement, the nonprofit said, “At this time, we have little to no involvement in this situation. While Catholic Charities of Central Texas has been in communication with community leaders about these migrants from Laredo, we have not yet determined what (if any) assistance our organization can or will provide. Should our involvement change, we will be transparent with our supporters and our community.”

Laredo’s city spokesperson said Laredo has not sent any buses for the past few days. After communicating with Austin’s Office of Emergency Management, she said Laredo does not plan to send more migrants to Austin for now. Some migrants had also been sent to Dallas.

The city of Laredo said additional migrants are currently being sent to Houston because of the city’s capacity to take them.

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