News Americas, NEW YORK, NY, Thurs. April 30, 2020: At least four Caribbean immigrants deported by the US government have tested positive for the coronavirus on home soil.
The Jamaican government has confirmed one of the 46 people who arrived in Jamaica on a deportation flight from the United States a week ago has tested positive for the new coronavirus. Jamaica’s confirmed cases from COVID-19 reached 381 Wednesday but its death toll is only 7 as across the region 11,459.
Jamaica, which partially closed its borders last month due to the coronavirus pandemic, is the latest country in the region after Guatemala, Mexico and Haiti to receive coronavirus infected migrants back into their country.
The news comes after three deportees who arrived back in Haiti two weeks ago tested positive for the virus. Haiti has 76 confirmed cases of the virus and 6 deaths.
Haiti Foreign Ministry senior official Israel Jacky Cantave told Reuters Haiti had asked for all deportees to be tested but the U.S. government had only agreed to test those with symptoms – a problem given many carriers are asymptomatic.
Haiti is placing all deportees in a quarantine facility for two weeks upon arrival but security at the facilities is proving poor, with one of the three deportees escaping last weekend.
The Trump administration has been accused of deporting immigrants with coronavirus to the Caribbean and Latin America.
New analysis from the Center for Economic and Policy Research (CEPR) shows that Immigrations and Customs Enforcement (ICE) likely has carried out at least 232 deportation flights to Latin American and Caribbean countries since February 3, 2020, just after the Trump administration declared a public health emergency due to the COVID-19 pandemic.
From March 15, two days after President Trump declared a national emergency due to the pandemic, to April 24, ICE Air appears to have made 21 deportation flights to Guatemala; 18 to Honduras; 12 to El Salvador; six to Brazil; three each to Nicaragua, Ecuador, Haiti, and the Dominican Republic; and one each to Colombia and Jamaica, CEPR said.
In the Mexican border town of Nuevo Laredo, one man deported from Houston infected 14 others at the Catholic church’s Nazareth migration shelter, state authorities and the city’s bishop said. And Guatemalan President Alejandro Giammattei has said that at least 99 migrants deported by the United States to the Central American nation have tested positive. Deportees from the U.S. make up nearly 20% of the 557 coronavirus cases in Guatemala, which has had 16 pandemic-related deaths.
“These deportations undoubtedly will prolong the pandemic and widen its spread in the region,” CEPR research associate Jake Johnston said, “and most likely will unnecessarily extend the pandemic’s impact on the US as well.”
The U.S. government, which gives migrants basic health screens before removing them but does not test them for coronavirus, has not confirmed removing any migrant who is infected. Despite the obvious public health concerns, ICE has so far refused to test detainees prior to deportation — though officials have recently indicated they would begin at least partial testing.