More than 300 Chinese nationals have been apprehended trying to illegally enter the United States through the southern border in 2020, and the acting head of the Department of Homeland Security said the border could be a potential vulnerability for the spread of coronavirus, according to the Washington Times.
The coronavirus, also known as COVID-19, originated in China and has infected tens of thousands and killed thousands of people there. Now that it is spreading worldwide, including in the United States and Mexico, the potential for further spread adds another layer to the issue of border security.
What's the issue?
Thousands of migrants are caught attempting to illegally enter the United States through the border with Mexico every week, and many more certainly make it in undetected. Just this year, 328 of them have been from China. Coronavirus originated in China in December, and became a world public health emergency shortly after its discovery.
Many Chinese illegal immigrants attempt to get in the U.S. through official border crossing checkpoints by being smuggled concealed in cars. Chad Wolf, the acting secretary of the Department of Homeland Security, said that presents a problem for coronavirus containment efforts. From the Washington Times:
Acting Homeland Security Secretary Chad F. Wolf raised the issue Tuesday with the House Homeland Security Committee, saying that illegal immigration presents a unique threat compared to legal travelers from China, who are being screened on arrival.
"The individuals that are coming in at our 11 airports that are being funneled, we have very good information of their travel history, of their medical history. We're not going to have that same set of fidelity for the individuals if this continues to grow at the southwest border," he said.
There is a small but growing number of coronavirus cases in Mexico, and Wolf is also concerned that a potential reversal of the policy that requires asylum-seekers to wait in Mexico rather than be released into the United States could make things worse for U.S. coronavirus control efforts.