United States Customs and Border Protection revealed Tuesday that they are treating as many as fifty illegal immigrants per day for "serious illnesses" requiring urgent medial care, including pneumonia, influenza, and even tuberculosis.
The Washington Times reports that border patrol authorities are seeing a steep uptick in the number of sick immigrants attempting to cross the border, and in particular an uptick in the number of sick children. "Most of those in need of care are children, and a staggering 28 percent are under age 5," according to the Times.
The numbers come from a study undertaken by CBP after two children, a 7-year-old girl and and an 8-year-old boy, died while in border patrol custody, apparently from serious illnesses or infections contracted before they were taken into border patrol custody. The study sought to analyze how sick asylum seekers are handled within the U.S. Customs and Border Protection system and to help identify and patch holes in its care system.
"Between Dec. 22 and Sunday, the agency reported 451 cases referred to doctors or other providers, including 259 children," USA Today reports. "The ill migrants have been arriving with all kinds of ailments, many with flu or pneumonia that can be particularly pervasive and dangerous this time of year. Seventeen migrants have been hospitalized, including six children, according to the agency."
A full review of the situation also reportedly revealed that many migrants are ill when they leave their home countries and many make the decision to undertake the journey anyway.
CBP Commissioner Kevin McAleenan told media in a statement that, "Many were ill before they departed their homes."
“We’re talking about cases of pneumonia, tuberculosis, parasites. These are not things that developed urgently in a matter of days," he added.
As a result, the border patrol has had to evolve into a makeshift medical services organization.
"The Border Patrol is also changing procedures to enhance medical evaluations of children. Parents are being interviewed about their children's medical condition and history and kids' blood pressure, pulse and temperature are among the vitals being checked by assessment teams," McAleenan told media, according to USA Today.
"We have always had an agent review the condition of the children," McAleenan added. "What we are providing now is a medical professional."
Customs and Border Protection also says the number of migrants has increased sharply overall, and that migrants are reaching the border faster — within just a week on buses sponsored by immigrants rights organizations, instead of nearly a month on foot — and that they're arriving at less-trafficked border patrol facilities rather than major arteries between the United States and Mexico, perhaps assuming that lines will be shorter and that they will be processed faster in New Mexico than in Arizona, California, and Texas.
CBP also cautioned that adult migrants are traveling with children under the theory that border patrol agents may expedite their asylum claims in order to keep the children out of harm's way.
In a Reuters report on the death of a young Guatemalan boy in U.S. custody, the boy's mother admitted that "when her husband left Guatemala to try to reach the United States, they hoped taking their 8-year-old son would make it easier for the pair to get in."