HIDALGO COUNTY, Texas (CBSDFW.COM) – The La Joya Police Department issued a public health announcement after an officer approached an undocumented migrant family at Whataburger who told him Border Patrol released them because they had COVID-19.

On July 26 the police department of the small town along the Rio Grande and Mexican border shared details of the incident. They said a concerned citizen at the restaurant waved down the officer. The citizen told him about the family “coughing and sneezing without covering their mouths and not wearing face masks.”
Whataburger management also told the officer that they wanted the group to leave as well due to “their disregard to other people’s health.”

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In addition to telling the officer that Border Patrol had released them days prior due to their coronavirus status, the family said a charity group had paid for their room at the nearby Texas Inn Hotel. The officer followed up on that information, finding out that Catholic Charities of The Rio Grande Valley had booked all the rooms in the hotel to house undocumented immigrants detained by Border Patrol. He saw a group of 20 to 30 people staying at the hotel who were “out and about.” Most of them weren’t wearing masks, according to the officer.

Police said they learned that Border Patrol was quarantining other undocumented individuals who were COVID positive, or showed symptoms of illness, then handing them over to the non-profit. Catholic Charities would in turn place the undocumented individuals in hotels in the McAllen area as well as La Joya.

The police department said it contacted Hidalgo County Health and Human Services for help and was told that the agency would look into the matter. Their announcement further touched on the current border situation, saying, that the La Joya Police Department has assisted Border Patrol in catching hundreds of people crossing through their jurisdiction. And, according to the announcement, Border Patrol informed the police department that on July 25, 2021 they had surpassed 1 million apprehensions in the month of June.

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La Joya also said that Catholic Charities of the Rio Grande Valley didn’t tell them that they were placing COVID stricken people at the Texas Inn Hotel.

In response, Hidalgo County Judge Richard Cortez called on federal immigration officials to stop releasing infected migrants into their communities.

“We have been doing well as a community in slowing the spread of this deadly virus. But ill-conceived policies by both the federal and state governments are beginning to have serious consequences for Hidalgo County,” said Judge Cortez. “I call on federal immigration officials to stop releasing infected migrants into our community and am further calling on Governor Abbott to return to Hidalgo County the safety tools he took away that would help us slow the spread of this disease. This is unacceptable.”

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CBS 11 News reached out to Catholic Charities of The Rio Grande Valley for comment and is awaiting a response.