DALLAS, Texas (1080 KRLD) – “It’s startling,” says Congressman Michael Burgess (R-Dallas) about the overcrowding of illegal immigrants occurring at detention centers along the South Texas border.
Burgess recently finished touring a facility in Weslaco, Texas this week where thousands of immigrants are being held.
“It’s a daunting task – and the reason its daunting is just the sheer scale of the number of people.” said Burgess “Unaccompanied minors, mothers with children are making the dangerous trek across Mexico and then turning themselves in on this side of the border.”
Burgess, who’s also an M.D. says what also struck him was the amount of immigrants who are, or may be, carrying diseases.
“These children are not arriving in the United States with immunization records, so a lot of work is being done providing immunizations, providing the proper screening to look for illnesses, communicable diseases,” Burgess says. “That includes some that are not terribly threatening like scabies to others like tuberculosis which would be a very scary proposition.”
And it’s also a very real proposition for communities along the border.
“I have heard from the Sheriffs that there’s concern that disease is in the community,” says Don Reay with the Texas Border Sheriff’s Coalition. Reay goes onto say that for every illegal immigrant who may be caught carrying an illness, an unknown number are never found.
“That’s been a number that’s been guessed for years. How do you know who got through?” says Reay. “A lot of these people may not even know what the sickness is that they have. So there’s a concern about that but there’s also a concern about how you sustain supporting this humanitarian effort.”
He says some Sheriffs departments near the Texas border are very near bankruptcy by dealing with the illegal immigration crisis.
“Brooks County is having a very difficult time and has had for a number of years because they’re 70 miles from the border and so they do not get as many opportunities at grands as do the border sheriffs,” Reay says. “In that county I know they deal with a lot of unattended deaths involving adults that are trying to get around checkpoints. When you look at a cost of an unattended death – it falls upon the county, not the federal government – our estimates have been that it will generally cost somewhere in the vicinity of $5,000 (per person). And if you have hundreds like you do in Brooks county it becomes a very costly situation.”
Reay say the illegal immigrant crisis along the border may have reached a point of no return.
“Its kind of like treating a cancer, they tell you to quit smoking, and its never too late to… but sometimes it is too late.”
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