As Americans adjust to the new normals of social distancing, quarantine and a rising death toll wrought by the coronavirus, it’s business as usual at the border as Donald Trump continues to build his border wall.
The wall isn’t the only thing going up, however; the rate at which migrants are being expelled from the country after crossing illegally is rising as well.
The Washington Post reported that migrants entering the US illegally are being expelled at an average of one person every 96 minutes. The Post cites three unnamed US officials as the source of the information.
The removals are justified under emergency rules instituted in response to the coronavirus. The rules are in place across many southern US states.
Under the new guidelines, US Customs and Border Patrol agents are able to apprehend migrants and process them at the point of interception rather than having to take them to an office and conduct medical exams. Once they’re caught, they are turned away and sent back to Mexico.
Prior to the new rules, which were implemented on 21 March, agents were required to give apprehended suspects medical exams before they were able to send them away.
At the same time, the CBP has announced that as of Saturday it has completed more than 140 miles of new border wall and that another 197 miles was still under construction, according to a report in The Washington Times.
The CBP is still confident its goal of reaching 450 miles by 2020 is achievable, according to Newsweek.
Government officials celebrated completing 100 miles of wall on 10 January, just prior to the first reported case of coronavirus.
Activists, civil rights and environmental groups have criticised the continued construction of the wall,arguing funds used for the project should be redirected to the fight against the coronavirus.
An online petition signed by more than 100 organisations aimed at civil rights and immigration justice called for a halt to the construction.
“The world is in the midst of an unprecedented public health crisis,” it states. “It is unconscionable that the US government is demanding to survey the homes of border residents with plans to send construction crews and agents. This puts thousands of families and individuals at a higher risk of exposure and spread of COVID-19.”
Mr Trump has argued that the country needs the wall “now more than ever” due to the coronavirus.
However, the United States currently has more confirmed cases of coronavirus than anywhere else in the world, with the largest concentration of cases in New York City.