BROWNSVILLE, Texas (Border Report) — The CEO of Greyhound bus company has 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, Border Report has learned.
The letter, sent Wednesday, came during a week when it was learned that 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 this past month.
“Our top priority is the safety of our employees and passengers,” said the letter, a copy of which was obtained by Border Report. “We need assurance that any detainees released by ICE have proof of a negative COVID-19 test, similar to the proof required for international airline passengers who arrive at US ports of entry. Greyhound already asks our customers to stay home and NOT travel if they are not feeling well or have been diagnosed with COVID. However, migrants simply do not have that choice unless the government or their sponsors house them while they quarantine. Therefore, it is critical to public safety that ICE provide 100% assurance that no one released that can be reasonably expected to ride a Greyhound bus be infected with COVID-19 (or mixed with other potential passengers that have tested negative),” Greyhound President and CEO David Leach wrote in the letter to Mayorkas.
We need assurance that any detainees released by ICE have proof of a negative COVID-19 test.”Greyhound President and CEO David Leach
News of the letter also comes on a day of criticisms being traded between Austin and Washington, D.C., as Texas Gov. Greg Abbott tweets that the testing of released migrants is a federal responsibility.
Meanwhile, Mayorkas earlier this week told a White House press briefing that other than those asylum-seekers released from the remain-in-Mexico program, no migrants were being released into the country due to Title 42 border restrictions to stop the spread of COVID-19.
Leach said that during the previous surges of migrants to the border, in 2014 and 2019, “Greyhound and its regional partners worked with charitable organizations to transport migrants with dignity and humanity by adding extra buses on our routes to ease bottlenecks at transfer terminals across the country to the extent of our resources.”
But Leach wrote that the pandemic has been a game-changer for the industry and they must demand that changes are made by DHS officials to ensure the health and safety of passengers and employees.
“As a result of COVID-19, we are anticipating a much more serious challenge if there are any potential migration surges in 2021. Our top priority is the safety of our employees and passengers. We need assurance that any detainees released by ICE have proof of a negative COVID-19 test, similar to the proof required for international airline passengers who arrive at US ports of entry,” the letter reads.
Leach also requested additional financial aid to help the transportation carrier.
“We simply do not have buses and drivers ready to meet surges in demand without emergency funding. In order to properly serve immigrants coming into the southern border and traveling to their sponsor destination, Greyhound will be operating one-way moves throughout the country and in order to get the resources back (buses and drivers) to the border to continue operations, Greyhound needs funding assistance to cover the costs of repositioning buses and drivers from other parts of the country to wherever they may be needed,” he wrote.
Border Report has reached out to DHS officials and will update this story if information is received.
Earlier Thursday, U.S. Rep. Henry Cuellar, D-Texas, called the situation “weeks, maybe even days, away from a crisis on the southern border.”
Late Thursday he told Border Report this is a “serious situation” that needs Mayorkas’ attention and his office hopes to help coordinate with DHS officials. Cuellar is vice chairman of the House Appropriations Subcommittee on Homeland Security, which is in charge of funding for DHS.
“They (Greyhound) told us ‘we’re dropping off people all over the country.’ That’s why these folks are concerned. And we are definitely in agreement with Greyhound,” Cuellar said.
Sandra Sanchez can be reached at Ssanchez@borderreport.com.