MCALLEN, TX - There’s a growing health concern with hundreds of illegal immigrants crossing over into southern Texas.
U.S. Border Patrol agents are worried that what's coming over into the U.S. could harm everyone.
This time the focus is not on the women and children that are crossing over in droves.
Agents are worrying about a viral outbreak.
“We are sending people everywhere. The average person doesn't know what's going on down here,” said Border Patrol agent and Rio Grande Valley Union representative Chris Cabrera.
Cabrera says agents are seeing illegal immigrants come over with contagious infections.
Detention centers and holding facilities have quarantined areas for those who come in sick. But Cabrera says the sick and healthy are separated only by caution tape.
“There's been an outbreak of scabies that's been going on for the past month,” Cabrera said.
Texas border resident Jorge Garcia says word about the contagious skin infection is getting around.
“Our Border Patrol agents check on us all the time and they told us about the outbreak of scabies,” Garcia said.
Cabrera says the sickness doesn't stop at scabies.
“We are starting to see chicken pox, MRSA staph infections, we are starting to see different viruses,” Cabrera said.
Garcia believes the viruses are not confined to the detention center. Not long ago, a group of border-crossers came knocking on his door.
“It was a 7-month-old baby. It was shaking, it had a fever,” Garcia said.
The Department of Homeland Security called in Coast Guard medics to help treat those who are sick. But Cabrera doesn't believe the federal government is doing enough. He says other Border Patrol agents have contracted scabies and he fears it will spread quickly.
“It's contagious, we are transporting people to different parts of the state and different parts of the country,” Cabrera said.
“Just the fact we are exposed to it, and so is everyone here in south Texas, it's a great concern to us,” Garcia said.
It's unclear how many were treated for illness.
DHS has denied all requests for interviews with doctors and medical staff treating sick immigrants. The agency has also turned down our request for a tour.
They only released this statement:
DHS has public health controls in place to minimize any possible health risks. Throughout the RGV Sector we are conducting public health screens on all incoming detainees to screen for any symptoms of contagious diseases of possible public health concern. U.S. Border Patrol has established Medical Units at its busiest border stations (McAllen, Weslaco, and Ft Brown) handling UAC. US Coast Guard medical teams are assisting with the screening process, and providing healthcare evaluations for the sick and injured.
Occupational health and safety guidance has been provided to for CBP personnel in the handling of subjects with signs of health-related symptoms. Our workforce has been provided and encouraged to use personal protective gear including latex or non-latex gloves, long-sleeve shirts, and to take precaution including frequent hand washing.