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Border official: Illegal immigration lowest in decades amid virus outbreak

In this Nov. 7, 2018, photo, U.S. Army troops with the 16th Military Police Brigade install concertina wire atop the U.S.-Mexico border near the Morley pedestrian gate just east of the DeConcini Port of Entry in Nogales, Ariz. The brigade is comprised of troops from the 42nd Military Police Brigade and the 66nd Engineer Battalion. (Mike Christy/Arizona Daily Star via AP)

PHOENIX — A top border patrol official said the United States is seeing a significant decrease of people crossing into the country illegally during the coronavirus outbreak.

“Between the ports of entry we are seeing the lowest number of illegal immigration than we’ve ever seen in my career and frankly I believe going back 45 years,” National Border Patrol Council President Brandon Judd told KTAR News 92.3 FM on Tuesday.  

Judd says there are many factors that play into the decrease of illegal immigration, including a drop in activity by cartels.

“The criminal cartels are very smart, they know the ebbs and flows of the United States, understand politics,” Judd said.

“If the criminal cartels were recruiting people at this time and they were flooding us with illegal immigrants, they know darn good and well that the public would be in an outcry over it and the government would be forced to take drastic measures,” he added.

Judd says the cartels control every facet of illegal immigration on the borders and they are not going to want to “snub their nose at us right now during a pandemic.”

“They’re acting in a business manner,” he said.

An area of focus for Judd is once cases of the coronavirus begin to settle in the United States, he says officials are preparing for the possibility of an influx of people attempting to cross into the country illegally if the virus ramps up in Mexico.

According to data compiled and regularly updated by Johns Hopkins University, the United States has more than 834,000 positive cases of coronavirus with nearly 46,000 deaths as of Wednesday morning.

In contrast, Mexico has just over 9,500 positive cases of the coronavirus and nearly 900 deaths related to the virus.

“If COVID-19 takes off in Mexico, you can expect to see an awful lot of people crossing our borders seeking medical attention in the United States because they know the medical attention is going to be better,” Judd said.

If an illegal immigrant crosses into the United States and says they have an illness or medical condition, Judd says that person must be taken to the hospital to be treated.

“It’s essentially free care,” he said. 

Judd says officials are preparing for the possibility of increased illegal immigration by having the infrastructure of walls and technology in place, along with extra personnel.

There are more agents at the border now than in the last two decades, according to Judd.

While there has been a significant decrease in illegal immigration at the United States and Mexico border, along with record lows at legal ports of entry, Judd says commerce between the two nations has not been affected.

KTAR News 92.3 FM’s Jeremy Foster contributed to this report. 

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