Reynolds raises concerns about unvaccinated immigrants coming to U.S.

By: - July 27, 2021 1:51 pm

Gov. Kim Reynolds visited Starts Right Here, a Des Moines youth program, to celebrate a $50,000 grant award from Amerigroup. (Photo by Katie Akin / Iowa Capital DIspatch)

Gov. Kim Reynolds told reporters Tuesday that immigration at the southern border is “part of the problem” as COVID-19 cases rise again through the U.S. and Iowa.

In response to a question about the state’s COVID-19 data reporting, Reynolds said she received daily updates on the pandemic and would “adjust as necessary” to the delta variant. She touted the state’s 61% vaccination rate for adults. Reynolds then switched gears, telling reporters she was concerned that migrants crossing the border were unvaccinated and traveling around the country.

“As they’re trying to impact additional restrictions on Americans, we’ve got people coming across the border that haven’t been vaccinated, and so that’s also something we need to continue to look at,” Reynolds said.

Pat Garrett, spokesperson for the governor’s office, provided a link after the event to a July Fox News report that COVID-19 cases surged among detained immigrants at the Texas border. The New York Times also reported that crowded immigration detainment facilities have experienced outbreaks, and that only about 1 in 5 detained migrants received at least one dose of the vaccine while in custody, according to Immigrations and Customs Enforcement data from May.

In March, Texas Gov. Greg Abbott claimed that President Joe Biden was “recklessly releasing hundreds of illegal immigrants who have COVID into Texas communities.” The Associated Press found no evidence that migrants were a significant factor in spreading the virus at that point. Dr. James Castillo, a public health authority on the Texas border, said migrants with COVID-19 were just one  of many sources of infections.

More recently, some border counties in Texas have called for U.S. immigration officials to stop bringing in migrants who have tested positive for COVID-19. Border Patrol does not test migrants for the virus when apprehending them, according to immigration publication Border Report.

It is unclear how vaccination rates at the border affect the spread of COVID-19 nationally.

Iowa sent 29 state troopers to the border in July. Reynolds and several of the troopers will hold a press conference Wednesday to give details on the mission. Reynolds said she would also renew the push for Iowans to be vaccinated.

Reynolds made her comments Tuesday at a visit to Starts Right Here, a program for at-risk youth in Des Moines, as healthcare company Amerigroup Iowa awarded the program a $50,000 grant.

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Katie Akin
Katie Akin

Katie Akin is a former Iowa Capital Dispatch reporter. Katie began her career as an intern at PolitiFact, debunking viral fake news and fact-checking state and national politicians. She moved to Iowa in 2019 for a politics internship at the Des Moines Register, where she assisted with Iowa Caucus coverage, multimedia projects and the Register’s Iowa Poll. She became the Register’s retail reporter in early 2020, chronicling the impact of the COVID-19 pandemic on Central Iowa’s restaurants and retailers.