The city of Laredo has filed a lawsuit against the Department of Homeland Security in an effort to prevent DHS from sending migrants arriving in the U.S. through the Rio Grande Valley to its border community.
A rise in COVID-19 positivity rates among arriving migrants, the city’s weakened medical infrastructure and dwindling resources at migrant shelters were cited in the civil complaint filed before the U.S. Southern District Court’s Laredo Division on Friday.
“Although the increased influx of refugees, immigrants and/or migrants is clearly a federal issue, the federal government has made this a municipal problem to resolve on our own,” the complaint read.
The city requested the federal court provide an emergency hearing to temporarily stop the anticipated release of more migrants from the Valley after it received a notification from Border Patrol last month.
“We have been asked to shift back to assisting the RGV sector with the processing of family units,” Matthew Hudak, Border Patrol Chief Patrol Agent in Laredo, wrote to the city on June 29.
A copy of the email was among court documents filed.
“As a result, I expect that our number of local releases will return to the higher numbers we saw last month,” Hudak stated, alluding to May when about 3,000 migrants flew from the airport.
The arrivals that month were from the Valley.
The number decreased to the 600s in June when the migrants arriving to Laredo were from Border Patrol’s Del Rio Sector, according to city records included in the lawsuit.
Migrants arriving in Laredo are typically funneled into two shelters where they are tested for COVID-19 before they are assisted with their travel plans, including bus trips and airport tickets at the local stations and airports.
The Holding Institute is the only place that allows migrants to stay overnight. The vast majority of those who are accepted are from the Valley. Only about 35 migrants sent to the shelter are those who arrived through Laredo.
Those who test positive are quarantined for 10 days before their release. An increase in the positive rates — from 4% in May to 8% in the first week of July — recently led to fewer spaces available after migrants were backlogged at the shelter due to the enforcement of 10-day quarantine periods.
A city-ordered quarantine was placed at the shelter on July 9 as a precautionary measure after 26 migrants tested positive; more, however, were held in quarantine to include their families exposed to the virus.
While shelters carry most of the financial costs related to providing humanitarian aid, the city stated they had to step in after the shelters ran out of space.
To date, the city provided staff, tents and immunizations, though they are requesting more assistance from the Texas Division of Emergency Management.
U.S. Customs and Border Protection shared a statement stating it sends migrants from one sector to another based on operational need.
“Several Border Patrol Sectors have seen a significant increase in encounters in recent months. In order to process individuals as safely and expeditiously as possible, unprocessed individuals may be transported via air or ground transportation to other Sectors along the Southwest border,” the statement read in part. “The operational need for these sector-to-sector transfers is assessed daily based on the processing capability and facility capacity of each sector and not by external influences.”
A hearing has not been scheduled on the docket as of late Sunday night.
View the full lawsuit below: