A Texas Democratic county judge issued a disaster declaration due to the “substantial” number of migrants, including those with COVID-19, who are released into his community by the U.S. Department of Homeland Security. The same politician previously opposed a related disaster declaration by Texas Governor Greg Abbott, claiming the region was not at crisis levels to justify the move.
This week, Hidalgo County Judge Richard Cortez signed his declaration stating that “U.S. Customs and Border Protection is releasing an alarmingly substantial number of immigrants.” According to the document, the release of the migrants is overwhelming the City of McAllen and local non-governmental organizations which can “no longer adequately feed, house, provide medical attention, or otherwise accommodate” them.
The declaration is set to last seven days, allowing the county government to activate an emergency management plan and thereby access funds allocated for disasters.
According to the declaration, the current COVID-19 pandemic has the region at a hospitalization rate higher than 18, which is considered high. The added strain by the migrant influx places the region at risk and “extraordinary measures must be taken to protect the public health, safety and general well-being” of the community.
Cortez recently invited President Joe Biden to visit the border to see the challenges created by current federal actions. The move comes after the revelation that several COVID-19 positive migrants were released and caused stirs in cities like La Joya and Weslaco–where local officials criticize Catholic Charities of the Rio Grande Valley for their lack of transparency in the episodes.
Cortez opposed a disaster declaration by Governor Abbott in May. Abbott sent hundreds of state troopers to border cities where cartels are focused on human smuggling and trafficking operations.
Cortez says his declaration is different than the governor’s because he addresses asylum-seeking migrants, while Abbott focuses on illegal immigration.