EL PASO, Texas (KTSM) — Greyhound bus passengers in El Paso are reacting to the CEO of the bus company asking the Department of Homeland Security to require migrant passengers to show proof that they do not have COVID-19.
On Friday afternoon, two migrants from Guatemala, a mother and young daughter hand-in-hand, could be seen heading into the Greyhound bus station planning to head to be with family in Louisiana.
A volunteer who was with the mother and daughter told KTSM 9 News that the two had been tested for COVID-19 prior to coming to the United States last Friday. They were part of the first group of migrants who were under the Migrant Protection Protocols program to be allowed into El Paso.
The volunteer walked them inside the station but said that no one asked them for any proof if they had been tested for COVID-19.
“They didn’t get asked at the desk here, at the check-in desk,” said Nancy Reynolds a volunteer.
Border Report on Wednesday reported that Greyhound President and CEO David Leach sent a letter to Homeland Security Secretary Alejandro Mayorkas demanding that all undocumented asylum-seekers released by DHS show proof that they are COVID-free before boarding buses.
The letter came during a week when it was learned that since late January, at least 108 migrants apprehended by U.S. Customs and Border Protection in South Texas tested positive for coronavirus at the Brownsville, Texas, bus station as they were en route to destinations north, according to Border Report.
Greyhound passenger Anarosa Lowe was at the Downtown El Paso station on Friday morning. She told KTSM 9 News that she rode the bus from Houston to El Paso to visit family and is taking the bus back.
Lowe said she would feel more comfortable riding the bus if anyone riding Greyhounds buses could show proof that they are COVID-19 free before boarding.
“I think I would feel better but I don’t know if it will work,” said Lowe. “Not just migrants — everyone would have to do it because anyone could lie about having it or not taking a test or whatever — not just migrants.”
Another passenger, Charles Bailee, said he is headed across the county by bus.
“I think if everybody takes the necessary protection — wearing the face mask and keeping distance as much as you can — I think it’s pretty safe,” Bailee said.
KTSM 9 News asked Bailee what he thought about migrants showing proof of being COVID-free before boarding.
“In my case, I never had to do that so I wouldn’t want to have to do that,” he said.
Robert Heyman, with Las Americas Immigrant Advocacy Center, told KTSM 9 News he understands the Greyhound is thinking about the safety of customers and employees. However, he believes Greyhound’s request is singling out migrants.
“Remember, the COVID pandemic is a problem in communities throughout the U.S., it isn’t something that immigrants and asylum-seekers are uniquely responsible for. Either this needs to be a blanket policy for all of their customers or they shouldn’t try and do this at all,” Heyman said.
Greyhound has taken steps to stop the spread of COVID-19. All passengers older than 2 are required to wear a mask.
Greyhound also says it increased the cleaning frequency of “high-touch” areas using a CDC-recommended disinfectant. The company ozonates each bus and has increased the availability of hand sanitizers for customers and employees, according to the Greyhound website.