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Homeland Security official says work at border slowing spread of COVID-19

(AP Photo)

PHOENIX – A top Homeland Security official said Friday the coronavirus outbreak has helped speed up the process to send back immigrants who try to illegally enter the United States, and falling numbers reflect that.

“Just look at April – 80 percent of the people [Customs and Border Protection] apprehended at the border were returned back over the border in an average of under two hours. That’s astonishing,” Acting Deputy Secretary Ken Cuccinelli told KTAR News 92.3 FM’s Arizona’s Morning News.

“In the last six weeks, the Border Patrol has been implementing a health order rather than immigration law,” he said.

President Donald Trump’s administration tapped a law in March that allowed the head of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention to ban foreigners if their entry would create “a serious danger” to the spread of communicable disease.

“A year ago, there were days we had as many as 20,000 people in Border Patrol custody,” Cuccinelli said.

“Imagine bringing one COVID-positive person into that environment. That is not good for those migrants, it’s not good for the Border Patrol agents who work there nor that community because it’s that community’s health care system that absorbs those people when they get sick.”

Cuccinelli said last month there was an average of 150 people in immigration custody.

“Far less overwhelming danger of [the] health care system at the border, far more protection for American public health,” he said.

The Associated Press contributed to this report.

For all articles, information and updates on the coronavirus from KTAR News, visit ktar.com/coronavirus.

Arizona open and hiring: If you’re looking for job openings, visit ktar.com/arizonahiring.

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