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Tamaulipas demanding help from Mexican gov't on migrant pandemic care

1 year 7 months 1 week ago Monday, April 20 2020 Apr 20, 2020 April 20, 2020 10:43 PM April 20, 2020 in News - Coronavirus Pandemic

Tamaulipas state officials are concerned with a new batch of coronavirus cases that quickly multiplied among the migrant population following the deportation of two men from the U.S.

Sixteen migrants — including a man in Reynosa — tested positive for the coronavirus, according to the state’s health department. There are 198 positive cases in Tamaulipas as of Monday. About 8% of them are migrants who were either repatriated to Mexico or foreigners deported from U.S.

Those who tested positive include four Mexican citizens, six migrants from Honduras, one from Guatemala, three from Cuba, one from Cameroon and one whose nationality is not yet identified. 

Fifteen of the sixteen migrants who got sick contracted the virus at a Nuevo Laredo shelter after one of them was deported from a Texas facility without knowing he had COVID-19. Thirteen are men and two are women. The rest of the migrants and staff at the shelter were also tested but they were not positive for the virus.

The remaining migrant is a 21-year-old Mexican man from the state of Michoacán. The man was repatriated April 16 from Atlanta, Georgia, and passed through the Mexican health checkpoint at the Hidalgo-Reynosa International Bridge. His case was immediately identified and protocols for treating suspected cases were immediately enacted, according to state health authorities.

Protocol calls for a trip to a federally-designated hospital, but that didn't go as planned said Gloria Garza of Tamaulipas' Legal Department. "Since there are no guidelines the [regional social security] hospital simply said, we won't accept the patient because they're not proven positive and we can't isolate him because he doesn't require hospitalization," she said. They had to take him to the general hospital in Reynosa.

The state also had to use one of their own ambulances to transport the Mexican migrant back to his home in Queretaro, Michoacán. For Tamaulipas, this case is indicative of a larger problem – sick migrants are being sent into a situation where federal and state guidelines are hazy or lacking.

"Our message warning of the exponential risk posed by a sick migrant as opposed to a sick citizen of the state is necessary to convey," said Garza. "Because migrants live in shelters or in camps like in Matamoros where they crowd and conditions don't allow them to put a healthy distance between themselves or to stay away from those who could be sick."

Last week, Garza said Tamaulipas sent a complaint to Mexico's Supreme Court. They're asking them to intervene and order the federal government to help shoulder the responsibility of providing enough care for repatriated and returned migrants during the pandemic. It's a four-pronged request seeking the restriction of traffic circulation along the U.S.-Mexico border to only essential travel, the creation of strict health guidelines for migrant control, the acceptance of only deported Mexican nationals and allowing the U.S. to send other nationalities to their countries of origin, and for provision of standardized guidelines at migrant shelters.

Garza says they hope the federal government answers before the supreme court weighs in on a problem they can't ignore. "Immigration is a topic that's a reality in Tamaulipas and we can't just simply let them cross or pretend it's not happening." For Tamaulipas, Garza said it's about protecting the migrants and the communities they're re-entering.

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