Hidalgo County issues disaster declaration due to increase in asylum-seeking migrants

Local News

Hidalgo County Judge Richard Cortez (Source: Salvador Castro, KVEO photojournalist)

HIDALGO COUNTY, Texas (KVEO) — Hidalgo County Judge Richard F. Cortez has signed a local disaster declaration due to the growing number of COVID-19 positive cases that may be among migrants seeking asylum.

The declaration will be effective immediately and will remain in effect for seven days. The Hidalgo County Commissioners Court must vote to extend it after seven days, said a release.

 “U.S. Customs and Border Protection is releasing an alarmingly substantial number of immigrants into the City of McAllen,” states the declaration.

It is also mentioned it is different from Gov. Greg Abbott’s disaster proclamation issued on May 31 as his order targets those illegally entering the United States and trying to remain in the country without authorization.

Cortez states his disaster declaration “focuses on the large numbers of migrants who are legally in this country after having applied for asylum and getting permission by federal officials to remain in the United States until their asylum claims are heard in immigration courts.”

It is also noted that nonprofit agencies and the city of McAllen are being overwhelmed by the increase in migrants seeking asylum. and can no longer provide the necessary care.

Hidalgo County is also seeing a spike in COVID-19 cases and now has a hospitalization rate in excess of 18 percent, said the release. Abbott has declared that a rate above 15 percent is considered a high hospitalization rate.

Cases of the COVID-19 delta variant have also been confirmed in the county.

“My order declares that extraordinary measures must be taken,” said Cortez in the release. “We must change current immigration laws and existing policies to slow the volume of migrants seeking asylum,” Cortez said in the release. “Until those laws and policies are changed, we must increase local capacity to safely accommodate these migrants legally seeking asylum.”

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