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4 El Paso area CBP employees test positive for COVID-19

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Four U.S. Customs and Border Protection employees in the El Paso area have tested positive for COVID-19, the agency says in data recently made public.

CBP had said previously it would not make public the number of positive tests among agents and officers and those in their custody. But the agency began posting data for its employees on its website on Monday, showing 160 cases nationwide.

The agency hasn’t posted similar data for people in its custody. CBP officials didn’t immediately say whether they would be sharing that data.

Buzzfeed immigration reporter Hamed Aleaziz reported on Monday that more than 600 employees of the Department of Homeland Security, CBP’s parent agency, had tested positive for COVID-19, with another 5,000 DHS employees self-quarantining or monitoring for possible exposure.

What CBP does

CBP is the nation’s largest law-enforcement agency, with more than 60,000 employees, including 3,600 in its El Paso area, which includes far West Texas and all of New Mexico.

The agency has two major functions in the El Paso area — Border Patrol agents who are responsible for enforcing immigration laws and detecting contraband between ports of entry, and CBP agents who process the movement of people and goods at ports of entry.

CBP officials didn’t immediately respond to questions about whether any of the employees who tested positive regularly interacted with people who crossed at ports of entry.

ICE reports no COVID-19 cases among El Paso detainees, employees

Immigration and Customs Enforcement, which runs detention facilities for immigrants facing civil court matters, has reported four COVID-19 cases among detainees, though none in El Paso. An ICE spokeswoman said last week that no ICE employees in the area had tested positive.

Immigrant advocates have called for ICE to release most of the 35,000 civil detainees in its custody to prevent the spread of COVID-19 in the tight spaces of its detention facilities but the agency has resisted those requests.

What’s happening at TSA

The Transportation Security Administration, another major DHS agency that conducts security screenings at airports, has reported 55 COVID-19 cases in the past 14 days among its screening agents that interact with the public. None of those cases were in El Paso, according to a map provided by TSA.

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Robert Moore

Robert Moore is the founder and CEO of El Paso Matters. He has been a journalist in the Texas Borderlands since 1986. His work has received a number of top journalism honors including the Robert F. Kennedy Journalism Award, Pulitzer Prize finalist and the Benjamin C. Bradlee Editor of the Year Award. Moore’s work has appeared in the Washington Post, Texas Monthly, ProPublica, National Public Radio, The Guardian and other publications. He has been featured as an expert on border issues by CNN, MSNBC, BBC, CBC and PBS.

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