SAN DIEGO — U.S. Border Patrol agents in San Diego began repatriating Mexican nationals to Mexico City on Tuesday in an effort to decrease the spread of the novel coronavirus along the border, federal officials said
Between March 20 and May 15, U.S. border agents saw an increase in Mexican nationals who made repeated attempts to enter the U.S. illegally and bypass public health measures, San Diego Border Patrol agent Justin Castrejon said. Some have re-entered the U.S. illegally more than 10 times within the past two months, he said.
“With this unprecedented situation we have with COVD-19, this also is an effort to slow the stem of people illegally entering the United States who have possibly been infected with this virus," said Castrejon. "This is a great effort to protect the men and women at the Port of Entry, the men and women of the Border Patrol and our contractors, and also the people that illegally cross the border every single day.”
Those transported will be screened for symptoms of the coronavirus and given surgical masks for their flight to Mexico City, a location selected by Mexican officials. The repatriations are a joint effort between the U.S. and Mexican governments, according to U.S. Customs and Border Protection.
"The overarching goal of these repatriation flights is to reduce the spread of COVID-19 into the U.S. and reduce the strain on Mexico's resources along the border," the report said.
Castrejon said the border patrol agents are aiming to get the Mexican nationals back on a flight within 24 - 36 hours. He said that is a short time to intercept a person, arrange a flight for them, and give them a health screening.
"Everyone who is going to participate in these flights goes through a health screen. If they do show signs or symptoms of this virus, they will not be part of these repatriation flights," he said.
RELATED: Acting Dept. of Homeland Security Secretary Chad Wolf tours port of entry, border wall near San Diego