Mayorkas grilled about testing migrants for COVID-19

Republican Rep. Andrew Clyde (Ga.) on Tuesday grilled Secretary of Homeland Security Alejandro Mayorkas on the surge of migrants at the southern border and reports that detainees who tested positive for COVID-19 were released from facilities.

“Do you agree that U.S. citizens must present a negative COVID-19 test, taken within three days, to enter the country after flying internationally?” Clyde asked the Homeland Security Secretary at Tuesday’s House Homeland Security Committee hearing.

“I believe we require a negative test for individuals traveling internationally,” Mayorkas replied.

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“Yet,” Clyde went on to say, “there are thousands of foreign nationals that cross our borders and that are released into our communities—without us knowing if they’ve had a COVID-19 test or not.”

“There appears to be a more lenient standard for foreign nationals crossing our borders illegally than for American citizens,” he added. “So, why is that?”

“That is not true,” Mayorkas fired back.

“What do you mean it’s not true?” the Georgia Republican asked.

“It’s unequivocally not true for the reasons I’ve expressed,” Mayorkas doubled down.

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Clyde then asked if every foreign national crossing U.S. borders is being tested for COVID-19, to which Mayorkas said, “It is our policy to test individuals who are apprehended between the ports of entry […] and, if in fact they test positive, to quarantine them.”

“That is our policy, and we have built practices to execute on that policy,” the secretary added.

“Can assure the American people that no one who has been apprehended is released into our communities […] that still test positive for COVID-19?” Clyde pressed him.

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“There were times earlier when individuals were apprehended, and we sought to expel them, and we were unable to expel them, and we were compelled to release them, and we did not have the opportunity to test them,” Mayorkas replied. “We have addressed that situation.”

“As we speak right now, you’re telling me that no one is released into our country that is COVID-19-positive?” Clyde inquired.

Mayorkas responded: “Congressman, allow me to repeat myself, if I may—”

“Well, that’s just a yes-or-no question,” Clyde interjected, which was followed by both interrupting each other.

“Congressman, if I may, the situation at the border is complex, and the complexity is evidenced by the questions throughout the morning,” Mayorkas said. “So please, if I may: it is our policy to test and to quarantine.”

“Okay,” Clyde said, interrupting him, “but are you executing that policy 100%?”

“We are doing the best we can to ensure that the policy is executed 100% of the time,” Mayorkas said, “that I can say.”

WATCH the full exchange here.

You can follow Douglas Braff on Twitter @Douglas_P_Braff.