“If one of you gets infected, you could all die,” Pablo recalled a doctor telling hundreds of asylum-seekers at a tent city in Matamoros, Mexico, as the novel coronavirus spread around the world. The conditions were already perilous — a few dozen toilets shared by around 2,000 people, constant sickness, scarce drinking water — but the global pandemic hit like a death sentence. Two days after the doctor’s warning, in mid-March, Pablo sent his daughter, Heidy, to cross the border without him, in a frantic attempt to get her to safety before the virus struck the tent camp. “They took them and didn’t want to return them,” Pablo told The Intercept (the full names of asylum-seekers interviewed for this story are being withheld to protect them from retaliation). An unknown number of migrant children have also been apprehended by Mexican immigration authorities as they sought to enter the U.S. and sent to government shelters in Mexico. In fact, what we’ve heard from the medical providers is that the younger children can actually be carriers,” CBP Commissioner Mark Morgan said on a March 9 call with reporters. President Donald Trump has railed against the practice , describing it as a “glaring loophole” that allowed criminal teenage gang members into the country. “This is part of the Trump administration’s war to prevent people from coming over by any means necessary,” said Richard Newman, managing attorney for the San Antonio Region Justice for Our Neighbors Border Project. Granello said Mexican immigration officials want to fence in the migrant camp to control movement in and out, and limit possible contagion. “We are terrified this virus will infect our boy,” said Daniel, a Honduran asylum-seeker who has lived in the tent camp since June with his 9-year-old son.
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