La Joya police say hotel is housing migrants with COVID-19, released by Border Patrol

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LA JOYA, Texas (KVEO) — On Tuesday, the La Joya Police Department addressed a migrant family they spoke with at a Whataburger in La Joya that told police they were COVID-19 positive.

“They told the officer that they all had the COVID-19,” said Sargent Manuel Casas with La Joya police at a press conference at city hall.

Someone waved down police alerting them that there was a family coughing, sneezing and not wearing masks, according to police. Police also said the family told them they were recently released by Border Patrol.

“They produced a paper to the officer and said we are here because we crossed the river, but we have proper documentation to be here,” said Casas.

That paper was the I-385 Form that Casas says gives them 60 days to reach their destinations in the United States and report to Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE).

“When they reach their destination, wherever that may be in the nation, they must report to the nearest ICE office within 60 days or face removal,” said Casas.

During the press conference, Casas also explained that Border Patrol is also no longer keeping migrants in custody.

“After these individuals are processed, they are no longer to be detained,” said Casas.

In this case, the family unit told police that they were released by Border Patrol to Catholic Charities of the Rio Grande Valley, and were places by the Catholic Charities in the Texas Inn and Suites in La Joya.

“And it was verified that they were staying there and not only that but there were other family units that had the same form,” said Casas. “We did not know this, no one told the city of La Joya, no one told the police department.”

La Joya police were later informed that Catholic Charities completely booked the Texas Inn on East Expressway 83 to house migrants that are traveling to other parts of the country–all unknown to the city of La Joya, according to Casas.

Sister Norma Pimentel, the Executive Director of Catholic Charities of the RGV, said the center has been receiving a lot of migrants from Border Patrol.

“After 800 we started to say ‘okay, let me figure out how to move these families before they decide to drop off more’ because the day is long,” said Pimentel.

After finding out about these migrant families in La Joya, Hidalgo County Judge Richard Cortez released a statement calling on federal agents and Texas Gov. Greg Abbott to better protect the community from COVID-19.

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 on Hidalgo County. I call on federal immigration officials to stop releasing infected migrants into our community and I 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.

Richard Cortez, Judge of Hidalgo County

Casas said that there were no official laws broken because there are currently no mandates in place regarding COVID-19.

La Joya police contacted Health and Human Services to seek help, but Casas said there is not much they can do.

Casas mentioned the city of La Joya will be in constant communication with federal agencies moving forward and hopes Abbott will place COVID-19 restrictions in place.

“We now face a potential crisis because of the federal policy of releasing infected migrants into our community, coupled with the state policy that prohibits us from implementing essential safety measures,” Cortez said in a release. “This is unacceptable.”

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