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Acting DHS Secretary tours Southern AZ

Views wall construction and port, talks COVID-19
Posted at 9:18 PM, May 12, 2020
and last updated 2020-05-13 01:22:16-04

TUCSON, Ariz - The corona virus and border security were issues as the Acting Secretary of Homeland Security toured Southern Arizona.

Video provided by Border Patrol showed Acting Secretary Chad Wolf inspecting the Mariposa Port of Entry in Nogales---a critical crossing point for millions of dollars in produce and manufactured products.

He says virus concerns reduced individual travel from Mexico 60 to 70 percent but actually cleared the way for commercial traffic to go up.

The Acting Secretary took a helicopter tour of border wall construction.

He says the government is building about 63 miles of wall in the Tucson sector and planning another 69 miles.

Environmentalists and Native Americans have complained about the effect of the wall on wildlife and native lands.

Wolf says the Department tries to accommodate concerns but puts national security first.

The Acting Secretary says Border Patrol takes steps to reduce the chance Agents could contract COVID-19 from immigrants they detain.

He says detention centers holding detainees for ICE, Immigration and Customs Enforcement are working to reduce the spread of the virus through steps like reducing populations through controlled release.

“ICE has taken a number of steps to make sure that their facilities are safe, they're clean. We can segregate folks when we need to. And again, we try to do that as best we can. We're talking to the Bureau of Prisons who also have similar challenges, utilizing some lessons learned there and best practices.”

Wolf did say he was unhappy court orders required the release of some detained immigrants with criminal records like aggravated assault.

The Acting Secretary was questioned about citizens upset that some agents at checkpoints have not been wearing masks when they come to your car window. He said agents do receive protective gear.

Afterwards, Tucson Sector Chief Roy Villareal said agents had been told to use masks during arrests but could decide on their own whether to wear them at checkpoints--- but that has changed.

Chief Villareal says, “As of last Friday,because of concerns of the public and to be good stewards, the mandate was made that we will wear PPE masks, while at the checkpoints. And during any encounter in secondary.”

From the Tucson area, Acting Secretary Wolf moved on to California to inspect border facilities and meet with agents there.