A South Texas Border Patrol agent has confirmed that immigrants from Ebola-stricken nations have recently been caught entering the country illegally via the nation’s porous southern border, the same entry points exploited by scores of illegal immigrants from Central America during the height of the immigration crisis this past summer.
Last week, Chris Cabrera, vice president of the National Border Patrol Council local chapter 3307, told news outlets he was worried for the safety of his fellow agents after immigrants from Liberia and other Ebola-stricken African nations were caught attempting to sneak into the U.S.
“Not too long ago we did catch some people, I believe, from Liberia,” Cabrera admitted in an interview with CBS affiliate Valley Central News on Friday.
Customs and Border Protection agents reportedly caught 112 people from Guinea, 231 people from Liberia and 145 from Sierra Leone during fiscal year 2013, according to Valley Central, but that figure does not take into account immigrants who evaded capture.
Per the CDC’s own statistics, those same three West African nations are the hot spots from which most of the Ebola cases and Ebola-related deaths have been reported.
“Our main concern like it’s always been is the health and safety of our agents,” Cabrera explained, adding that CBP agents “are trained, however, they are not medical professionals.”
After witnessing first hand how CBP agents contracted various viral illnesses amid this past summer’s influx, Cabrera says he’s worried the same situation might play out but on a much larger, more catastrophic level.
“Some of our agents did contract scabies, and some of the other things that illegal aliens had. Luckily it’s not something deadly like Ebola,” Cabrera stated.
Cabrera revealed earlier this year that so-called “quarantine zones” inside overloaded Border Patrol detention facilities were “nothing more than pieces of yellow caution tape,” highlighting the lack of essential resources needed to adequately contain viral outbreaks and illustrating the petri dish-like conditions perfect for spreading diseases.
While afflicted nations like Sierra Leone and Guinea have reportedly locked down their borders to prevent the disease from spreading, the Obama administration has declared that it will not impose a travel ban to or from African nations where the disease is prevalent. The CDC addressed the crisis by issuing a level three advisory for travelers going to West Africa, asking them to “avoid nonessential travel” to Liberia, Guinea, and Sierra Leone if possible.
Meanwhile, Texas Governor Rick Perry, whose state hosted the first ever U.S. case of Ebola, has called for enhanced screenings at checkpoints along the state’s multiple Mexican ports of entry, and has set up a task force hoping to stop the disease from entering the U.S.
“We need to be more pro-active about trying to prevent it from coming in as opposed to trying to contain it once its hear,” Cabrera said.
Agents have reportedly been trained to spot symptoms of the virus, such as nausea, fever, weakness and diarrhea, however, as the case in Dallas has illustrated, there is currently no foolproof method to accurately diagnose an early onset of the disease, especially given that symptoms sometimes don’t appear until 21 days after contact.
The CDC says it is “working closely” with CBP “to use routine processes to identify travelers who show signs of infectious disease.”