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BROWNSVILLE, Texas – Miriam Izaguirre, a 35-year-old asylum seeker from Honduras, crossed the Rio Grande at dawn on Monday with her young son and surrendered to authorities.

Hours later, she was released and the first thing she did was take a rapid Covid-19 test at the Brownsville bus station. They told him his test was positive.

“Right now we have been tested for Covid and they have separated about eight of us because we were HIV positive,” she told Noticias Telemundo Investiga. “We are waiting now.” She was waiting for a bus to Houston.

Other migrant families who also said they tested positive were waiting to go to other destinations: North Carolina, Maryland and New Jersey.

The city of Brownsville is administering these rapid tests at the bus station, after the migrant families were freed by the border patrol. A spokesperson for Brownsville confirmed that since they started doing these tests on January 25, 108 migrants have tested positive for Covid-19, or 6.3% of those who have taken the test.

Asylum seekers released by the Border Patrol undergo a Covid-19 diagnostic test in Brownsville, Texas on March 1, 2021.News from Damia Bonmati / Telemundo Investiga

Responding to Noticias Telemundo Investiga, a city spokesperson said in an email that Brownsville did not have the authority to detain those migrants who planned to travel to dozens of cities across the country. The city assured that city employees recommend those who test positive to remain in quarantine as directed by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. City workers suggest families go to non-governmental organizations (NGOs) and nonprofits in the border area that can accommodate and isolate them in order to keep them in quarantine.

“The City of Brownsville continues to follow all guidelines provided by the CDC and DSHS for Covid-19. Migrants who test positive at the B-Metro facility are informed of quarantine procedures and are encouraged to move away socially, ”Felipe Romero, Brownsville communications and marketing director, said in a statement sent by courier. electronic. DSHS refers to the State Department of State Health Services.

“There are several NGOs that are providing resources for a positive case,” the email said. “For example, organizations are helping with quarantine in a shelter or hotel. Since the city started testing migrants on January 25, there have been 6.3% of positive cases. Cameron County positivity is 13.8%. “

Several of the asylum seekers who tested positive told Noticias Telemundo Investiga that they were planning to leave Brownsville for their destination; one of them bought a bus ticket for the trip.

Eva Orellana, 29, from Honduras who tested positive, said she was going to take the bus to North Carolina with her 3-year-old daughter. “On the way, we wore a mask all the time, gel, we washed our hands,” she said. “Really, I don’t feel anything.”

Those who tested positive and spoke to Telemundo had no documentation showing the results of their Covid-19 test; they said they were just informed by station employees after taking the test.

They said train station workers told them to wait in a different waiting area than the rest of the migrant families, but still had the freedom to move around, a few meters from others.

Noticias Telemundo Investiga questioned the customs and border patrol on the release of migrant families and the detection of Covid-19. A spokesperson said in an email that CBP staff conduct initial inspections for symptoms or risk factors associated with Covid-19 and consult, as appropriate, with on-site medical staff, CDC or local health systems.

Suspected cases of Covid-19 “are referred to local health systems for appropriate testing, diagnosis and treatment,” according to CBP.

Asylum seekers are separated from other passengers after testing positive for Covid-19 at a bus station in Brownsville, Texas on March 1, 2021.News from Damia Bonmati / Telemundo Investiga

At the station, Martín Fernández, an Omnibus Express employee, said the bus company where he works follows federal authorities’ protocols: passengers must wear masks in the vehicle and use hand sanitizing gel. But they can’t, he said, ask passengers for Covid-19 tests before getting on the buses.

For years, bus stations have been at the epicenter of the arrival of migrants at the border. Different administrations have freed tens of thousands of immigrant families in these buildings and from there they buy tickets to join the residences of their relatives in the United States.

These are long routes, sometimes lasting several days, crossing the country from station to station. Migrants are usually released with a permit called ‘paroleor under supervision with an ankle monitor. Once they arrive at their new destination, they continue their asylum procedures in an attempt to stay in the United States.

The last few weeks have seen an increase in the number of families who have been allowed to enter the United States and continue their asylum search, as Noticias Telemundo Investiga has verified.

An earlier version of this story was originally published in Noticias Telemundo.

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