Posted: Jul 1, 2014 6:48 PM
Updated: Jul 1, 2014 6:48 PM
WESLACO - The spread of scabies, chicken pox and other diseases within Rio Grande Valley Border Patrol facilities may be getting out of control, a leader with the agents' union said.
National Border Patrol Council Local 3307 Vice President Christopher Cabrera said the federal government is not serious about solving the problem.
Cabrera said agents have to deal with health issues affecting the immigrants. He said agents are encountering many sick immigrants, including women and children.
Cabrera said the agents are beginning to contract some of those diseases.
"I see it as a big mess. Unless we get serious about fixing this ... we're spinning our wheels," Cabrera said.
The union representative said numbers recently reported in Hidalgo County included only five cases of chicken pox within the immigrant population. He's convinced there are more than the report shows.
"I know a couple of stations ... have gotten three or four or five cases alone," he said.
"You have the stations downriver ... the Cameron County area. Not everybody is going to come forward with the symptoms, but there are quite of few cases of the chicken pox," Cabrera said.
He said scabies also poses a threat. Cabrera said the skin disease appears to be getting out of control. He said about 10 to 15 percent of the immigrant population held in Valley detention centers is being treated for scabies.
"People may think that's not too big of a deal," he said.
"If you equate that to ... ‘my child's school, only 15 percent of the kids have scabies,' you will be alarmed as a parent. You would say, ‘I'm going to pull my kid out of that school.' That's the thing they're trying to downplay," Cabrera said.
Cabrera said approximately seven agents contracted scabies. He said the main concern is that the disease will find its way into the community.
"Whether an agent takes it home to his family and spreads it that way, or if some of these people that have the disease get released ... they're on a bus seat, they're interacting with the public. They're travelling who knows where in the United States. Whenever they get out of that bus seat they can potentially leave it behind for the next individual to catch it," he said.
Cabrera says the problem is becoming an issue for other states. Overcrowding conditions in the Valley require sending illegals to other locations. The possibility for spreading disease exists.
"We're starting to send some of our detained people out to San Diego, and San Diego agents are pretty upset," Cabrera said.
Cabrera said agents in San Diego want to know what precautions are being taken in the Valley to prevent the spread of disease.