Some 300 employees working at the U.S. Department of Homeland Security (DHS) have confirmed cases of coronavirus and more than 8,500 are now in quarantine, sidelining workers tasked with the job of keeping the country safe from threats, including border security, terrorism and gang violence.
The Los Angeles Times reported on the development based on an internal report from the agency that was obtained by an aide to a congressional Democrat and leaked to the newspaper:
The numbers of sick, infected and exposed continue to increase at the federal government’s third-largest department, suggesting a mounting toll even as it is helping to manage the nationwide mobilization against the virus. The department includes such critical agencies as the Federal Emergency Management Agency, the Transportation Security Administration, the Border Patrol, and Immigration and Customs Enforcement.
“These numbers underscore the risks that the men and women at DHS are taking every day to protect public safety,” John Sandweg, former acting director of the Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) agency in the Obama administration, said in the Times report. “Measures can and should be taken to protect the workforce, including limiting operations to only those that are only mission critical to protect national security and public safety.”
“I know of no good reason why DHS should not release these numbers,” Sandweg said. “At a minimum, DHS personnel have the right to know the risks that they are facing. Moreover, Congress and the public at large should also be aware, if only so that they can prioritize measures to protect the workforce.”
Brandon Judd, president of a union of Border Patrol employees, said in a Wednesday interview that the agency needs to do more to protect DHS employees.
“I don’t think the agency is doing enough to protect agents or individuals we come in contact with, period,” said Judd, adding that at least six Border Patrol agents have tested positive and 42 are under quarantine.
DHS has approximately 240,000 employees, according to the Times.
“While the largest federal department, the Pentagon, is providing a daily total of personnel affected by the virus, and others, such as the State Department, are also consistently updating the public, the Homeland Security Department has not publicized its numbers, even to its employees,” the Times reported.
Some 25 people who work for Citizenship and Immigration Services have tested positive for coronavirus and more than 500 are under quarantine, according to the Times.
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