Of the 1,867 CBP employees who have tested positive for Covid-19, 773 work in Texas and another 491 about split between California and Arizona. Their infections, as well as the tragedy of Agent Marco Gonzales and other agents who died of Covid in South Texas serve as a reminder to Americans that new Border Patrol agents now flooding the Texas zone will be putting their lives on the line to keep Covid from traveling to the nation’s interior.
By Todd Bensman as originally published August 17, 2020 in Townhall
AUSTIN, Texas — U.S. Border Patrol Agent Marco Gonzales was working the brush in the cooking heat of late June one night near his home town of Del Rio when he spotted four or five Mexicans together fresh out of the Rio Grande. Once among them, he noticed all were showing Covid symptoms, his 23-year-old daughter Catherine Gonzales told the Center for Immigration Studies (CIS) last week.
The 49-year-old Border Patrol veteran of 15 years told his family he loaded up the Mexicans in his vehicle anyway, per duty, and drove them to the Acuna-Del Rio International Bridge for their deportation to Mexico, the procedure nowadays under the Title 42 health code invoked to keep detention facilities relatively clear of Covid.
The agent later said he believed these Mexicans passed the coronavirus to him that night despite the gloves and masks all Border Patrol agents get. He was soon complaining of headaches, fatigue, and loss of taste and smell. He lasted a couple of painful weeks in the hospital on a ventilator. Toward the end, he was so bloated “you couldn’t see his eyes anymore,” said Catherine, who is one of three children to Agent Gonzales and has two young ones of her own.
They stayed in touch by Facetime and then, after the ventilator went in, by text. The staff set the phone on Facetime for question and non-verbal answer sessions; he couldn’t speak with the ventilator. Catherine asked if he was still fighting “and he would nod.” But soon the doctors warned the end was near. Finally, on July 23, her father “just let go.” Catherine read his last texts to her from July 18.
“I love all my grandkids. Lots of hugs and kisses and more to come when I get out.”
And this last text to Catherine, in all caps: “I LOVE YOU MY DAUGHTER.” He was buried like the fallen soldier he was Thursday, a Border Patrol honor guard at attention.
New CBP Covid Containment Operation to Bolster the Thin Green Line
The death of Agent Gonzales and at least 10 CBP personnel that Acting CBP Commissioner Mark Morgan recently said had “died in the line of duty because of Covid,” draws sharp focus to a trend that has gone casually dismissed as a racist notion. It is, as reported in Townhall, that America’s borderlands from Texas to California have become Covid-19 battlefields as infected people legally and illegally cross from Mexico’s collapsing hospitals to seek U.S. medical care, or try to slip Border Patrol Title 42 deportations to work in the nation’s interior.
The CBP line-of-duty deaths and, according to Commissioner Morgan, the quarantining of hundreds of exposed or infected agents due to close contact with the “high-risk” migrants, especially highlight a mortal danger that is about to sharply escalate for many more Border Patrol agents.
CBP has just begun a 60-day surge operation by which hundreds of agents will be redeployed around the country to Texas-Mexico border hotspots for both covid and illegal immigration, CIS exclusively reported August 14. Their mission’s historic purpose, according to two CBP officials who requested anonymity, is to catch and Title 42-deport infected illegal immigrants who otherwise would evade Border Patrol to work in the American interior, spreading the virus in the working Latino communities they join.
At least 400 CBP personnel and as many 1,000 are headed to the Rio Grande Valley of Texas and the Laredo, Texas, area to, as one CBP official wrote in a communication, counter “the Covid-19 public health risk posed if these illegal entry attempts continue unabated” and “mitigate public health impacts on the American public amid the ongoing global pandemic.” Five South Texas border communities from Brownsville to Laredo have the country’s highest new infection rates, four suffering the highest death rates. The region also is afflicted by sharply rising illegal immigration from Mexico as crop-harvesting season ramps up.
CBP is not advertising its virus-containment operation and decided not to immediately issue press releases, a spokesperson said, declining to elaborate.
But Acting Commissioner Morgan presaged the Texas operation in his August 6 press conference at which he indicated that infected illegal migrants (among a current escalation in apprehensions that reached 40,000 just in July) were using evasion tactics “for their own economic endeavors.” They were thoughtlessly ignoring Mexico’s stay-at-home orders, trying to evade Border Patrol’s Title 42 return policy, and going on to infect large numbers of working illegal migrants elsewhere.
“They’re running. They’re fighting. They’re doing everything that they can to avoid apprehension,” Morgan told journalists, who did not report the remarks. “Even though some of the illegal aliens know, or highly suspect that they have Covid…they’re still coming. They’re exposing everyone they come in contact with during their journey, as they illegally try to enter this country.”
It’s unclear whether contact tracing or some other internal government intelligence supports Morgan’s interesting contention that Covid-positive illegal Mexican immigrants are infecting interior Latino working populations. But there’s no disputing that the virus has ravaged working Latino communities throughout the American southwest who work in fields, poultry plants, and hospitality industries, economically unable to refrain from working and living in conditions conducive to virus spread.
Loopholes in Trump’s Border Closure to be Closed?
The CBP operation is not the only sign that national leadership is moving to staunch an incoming Covid tide from Mexico that supposedly isn’t happening.
Although President Donald Trump on March 20 ordered the southern and northern borders closed to all “non-essential” traffic, the directive exempted Mexicans with U.S. Legal Permanent Residence, those with dual-citizenship and border-crossing cards, and American expatriates.
Substantial evidence — to include media reporting, statements by hospital administrators, state public health officials, nurses, doctors and the patients themselves — shows that very significant numbers of people infected in Mexico have helped overwhelm border hospitals in California, Arizona, and Texas.
“We in McAllen Medical are receiving many patients from Mexico,” Dr. Ivonne Lopez, Medical Director of the McAllen Hospital Group at the McAllen Medical Center in South Texas, told a local reporter. “They are coming in because their resources over there are also limited, so they are coming in to our area seeking medical attention and, by law, we have to provide it.”
Research by CIS’s David North showed that Trump’s border closure was far less effective in Mexico than with Canada, which instituted a much more regimented Covid response. Southern border crossings after the order fell from 8.3 million to a still robust 3.3 million in May at the five largest ports of entry while the Canadian entries fell far more drastically from 2.4 million to a mere 88,000, North found in Transportation Department data. The California entry port at San Ysidro alone admitted 1,019,5554 people in cars and another 295,421 pedestrians during May, all of whom obviously got cleared as “essential” under the border closure.
But now the Trump administration, realizing the exemptions have contributed to the border state hospitalization crisis, is moving to sew those up. Last week, a White House memo leaked to The New York Times revealed that President Trump was considering revised rules that would allow border inspections agents to temporarily bar Mexican legal permanent residents of the United States and U.S. citizens living in Mexico if an official “reasonably believes that the individual either may have been exposed to or is infected with the communicable disease.” The prohibitions would apply “when required in the interest of public health,” the memo explained.
It’s unclear when those measures might go into effect, but it would tighten a border closure that became problematic after it was written.
Soldiers of the Thin Green Line Deploying Into an Undeclared War Zone
Of the 1,867 CBP employees who have tested positive for Covid-19, 773 work in Texas and another 491 about split between California and Arizona, online CBP statistics show.
Their infections, as well as the tragedy of Agent Marco Gonzales and several other agents who died of Covid in South Texas, such as Agent Agustin Aguilar of Eagle Pass and Agent Enrique J. Rositas of the Rio Grande Valley, serve as a reminder to Americans that new Border Patrol agents now flooding the Texas zone will be putting their lives on the line to keep Covid from traveling to the nation’s interior.
Most of the nation, though, seems oblivious to what’s happening, almost willfully misinformed by media that have yet to even report that a major CBP operation is underway to contain the virus.
None of this registers right now to Catherine Gonzales. In her mourning, Catherine matter-of-factly said she’s long born the risks of her father’s profession, which he dearly loved.
“It’s their job…to protect,” she said. “Every day is a life of risk for them. He said that was his job. That was it. We don’t blame anybody.”