US starts flights to take deported migrants to Mexico City

MEXICO CITY (AP) — The U.S. government has resumed an old practice of flying deported migrants back to Mexico City, though it apparently did not promise to test them for coronavirus before sending them home.

The first flight landed Tuesday, and video showed migrants sitting on a packed airplane, and having their temperatures checked. Mexico’s Foreign Relations Department said Wednesday the flights will carry up to 133 migrants apiece.

In past years, the U.S. government used such flights to Mexico City, in the country’s center, to move migrants away from the border and discourage repeat attempts to cross. This time, it also cited coronavirus concerns.

A total of eight flights are planned, four from San Diego, California and four from Brownsville Texas, through May 29. The Mexican government will arrange transportation to their home towns, but will not subject them to a mandatory quarantine, instead suggesting they self-isolate for two weeks.

“Before the flights leave, U.S. authorities will carry out sanitary protocols to detect early symptoms of COVID-19,” the department said. “It is important to note that only those who, at the time of deportation, show no symptoms or who are asymptomatic, will board the flights.”

“Upon the arrival of the flight, the international Sanitary team will carry out a preventative check of the Mexican citizens … to detect symptoms related to COVID-19.”

The issue of migrants arriving with coronavirus had temporarily halted deportation flights to Guatemala. That nation’s government demanded the United States test migrants before sending them back, but some have still arrived infected.

U.S. Customs and Border Protection said it “has observed an increase in Mexican nationals who make repeated attempts to enter the U.S. illegally and bypass public health measures. Such behavior increases the risk of exposure to immigration officials at the ports-of-entry, Border Patrol agents, and the American public.”

“All individuals will be medically screened to ensure they are fit for travel and surgical masks will be provided prior to boarding and worn throughout the flight,” CPB said.

Copyright © 2020 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, written or redistributed.

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