AUSTIN (KXAN) — The city of Laredo recently bussed migrants who were not tested for COVID-19 into Austin, per Austin and Laredo city officials.
According to Austin’s Department of Homeland Security and Emergency Management, the city of Austin learned over the weekend the buses were coming to town. According to HSEM, the city was told three buses of migrants were sent to Austin to be dropped off at the Greyhound station on Koenig Lane.
A spokesperson for the city of Laredo told KXAN that city is spending around $8,000 a day to send migrants on charter buses to other large cities. The city said it’s doing so, because hospitals are at capacity there in the midst of the COVID-19 surge.
According to Laredo Mayor Pete Saenz, about 16% of migrants coming into Laredo were testing positive for COVID-19, and the city no longer has room to isolate them or give them hospital beds. Therefore, Laredo is no longer testing migrants coming across the border for COVID-19, but rather just providing them with masks and sending them on their ways to other cities.
“These migrants aren’t being tested. Border Patrol doesn’t test them. We, much less, don’t have the infrastructure of testing and quarantining. When you test, then if they’re positive, then there’s an obligation there or duty to quarantine, and that’s expensive,” Saenz told KXAN’s Border Report bureau.
Laredo officials said many of the people being bussed out of Laredo have travel plans to get somewhere else. City leaders in both Laredo and Austin expect most will get on their ways quickly to their final destinations after arriving in Austin. However, some, both cities said, may not have somewhere to go and stay in Austin.
HSEM said the city of Austin is not testing anyone who stays. That would likely be up to any nonprofits or other organizations that choose to help or house them.
KXAN checked with a number of charitable organizations to see if any are assisting the migrants bussed in from Laredo.
Catholic Charities of Central Texas told KXAN it was made aware of the migrants arriving from Laredo very recently.
In a statement, the nonprofit said, “at this time, we have little to no involvement in this situation. While Catholic Charities of Central Texas has been in communication with community leaders about these migrants from Laredo, we have not yet determined what (if any) assistance our organization can or will provide. Should our involvement change, we will be transparent with our supporters and our community.”
Laredo’s city spokesperson said Laredo has not sent any more buses for the past three days. After communicating with Austin’s Office of Emergency Management, she said Laredo does not plan to send more migrants to Austin, for now. Some had also been sent to Dallas. However, the city of Laredo said additional migrants are currently being sent to Houston, because there’s capacity to take them in there.