The job of Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) is to enforce immigration law and remove those who violate the laws. Nothing more, nothing less. But this past year, ICE was forced to become an ad hoc medical center to treat a highly contagious mumps outbreak, according to a new report from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC).
Last week, the CDC published a report revealing that there were “a total of 898 confirmed and probable mumps cases in adult migrants detained in 57 facilities” since last September. In addition, 33 staff members contracted mumps as well.
From glancing at the news reporting on this CDC report, one would think that ICE simply exposed people to mumps, or at the very least fostered terrible conditions that led to the outbreak. But nobody is asking the obvious question: Why did the mumps outbreak begin in the first place, and where did it come from?
As I warned in an exhaustive series on the threat of contagious diseases coming from Central America (here, here, here, and here), Honduras experienced a national mumps emergency right when the caravans began coming last September. The Honduran government declared a national health emergency over mumps. Shortly thereafter, the largest caravan left from the country, with thousands of migrants coming with no access to health care or sanitary conditions. Most of the caravans left from San Pedro Sula, a northern Honduran town that had 1,336 reported cases of mumps as of April. It doesn’t take Sherlock Holmes to figure out where this is coming from.
Much of the media reporting on this CDC publication focuses on the assertion that 84 percent of those with confirmed cases exhibited symptoms after having arrived in DHS custody. But there is a 25-day incubation period during which migrants could be carrying the disease but are not suffering from symptoms of mumps. As the CDC notes, “Based on detainee custody status during their incubation period (12–25 days before symptom onset), most (758, 84%) patients were exposed while in custody of ICE or another U.S. agency.”
How many were actually carrying the disease when they arrived? We don’t know, but it’s clear that the ones who weren’t carrying it got it from those who were, aka other illegal immigrants. They certainly didn’t contract it from Americans. If anything, ICE should be commended for doing a good job quarantining the outbreak and not releasing those infected into the population.
ABC news, in its reporting on the mumps outbreak, launched into a discussion about the supposed high vaccination rates in Central America. However, a 2017 CDC report notes that “access to basic healthcare in Central America largely depends on socioeconomic status and environment (urban or rural).” The migrants coming through our border now are among the poorest families from rural areas. “Those we encounter may have never seen a doctor, received immunizations, or lived in sanitary conditions,” said Randy Howe, head of operations for Customs and Border Protection’s (CBP) Office of Field Operations, in congressional testimony earlier this year.
But this raises another disturbing question: What about all those who might have been carrying the disease but were released directly by CBP without being sent to ICE? At the peak of the influx, because there was no detention space left and because of the Flores agreement to release family units, CBP directly released tens of thousands of migrants who never went into ICE custody, where immunizations are performed. Just between March 19 and May 8, 33,000 were released by Border Patrol, according to Border Patrol Chief Carla Provost.
In April, a report from the bipartisan Homeland Security Advisory Council noted that “most FMUs [family units] are not detained by ICE ERO due to their lack of capacity,” so they are released very quickly by CBP. And although CBP has hired staff to treat medical concerns, the report observes how all the “infections” are “not necessarily evident” during the medical observations being done by CBP, because “an expectation for clinical acumen by CBP agents and officers is highly unrealistic.”
Thus, it’s very hard to believe that there weren’t people carrying the disease but not fully exhibiting the symptoms who were either turned over to ICE without warning of their condition or released into the population. Remember, the CDC report notes that 84 percent exhibited symptoms after coming into contact with ICE “or another U.S. agency.”
Then there is also the fact that Border Patrol has taken 21,000 sick or injured illegal aliens to the hospital since January. Clearly, they are coming sick and are getting much better care here then they would in their home regions, all courtesy of the American taxpayer.
Now that we know there were mumps in the ICE facilities, it’s very hard to believe that those coming in the Honduran caravans but released immediately did not spread it elsewhere. In Hidalgo County, Texas, the most highly trafficked border county, there were 51 reported cases of mumps throughout the county from the end of March through May, corresponding with the main period of time CBP was releasing people without turning them over to ICE. It’s inconceivable that this was not the result of Honduran migrants.
ICE typically has several hundred thousand people who pass through its custody in 315 facilities every year. Nobody wants to ask the obvious question: Why has ICE never experienced such an outbreak before last fall, when the Honduran caravans came in unprecedented numbers right after a national emergency was declared?
Indeed, ABC reports, “It is difficult to pinpoint the first case of mumps in U.S. detention centers.” I’m sure if we actually treated our border like Ellis Island and didn’t let anyone come through who wasn’t legally accepted, there would be zero outbreaks in detention facilities. Mystery solved.
Daniel Horowitz is a senior editor of Conservative Review. Follow him on Twitter @RMConservative.