İrem UZUN -TDO- More than 6,000 migrants have been turned away at the U.S.-Mexico border since new coronavirus border restrictions took effect, according to the latest U.S. Customs and Border Protection data. Acting CBP Commissioner Mark Morgan insisted Thursday that the new restrictions, which went into effect March 21, are "not about immigration. "It's purely about infectious disease and public health," said Morgan, who repeatedly stated that "This is not about immigration. This is about public health and safety."

Critics say the order is being used as an extension of strict immigration policies. Meanwhile, the number of illegal border crossings has fallen amid travel restrictions across the region. The emergency public health order issued by the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) bans the entry of foreigners considered to pose a "serious danger" to the spread of communicable disease. The measure, initially in place for 30 days, was necessary to limit the spread of the disease in crowded places such as border patrol stations or ports of entry, said CDC Director Dr. Robert R. Redfield. Since the CDC measure was introduced, apprehensions at the border dropped by 50%, acting CBP commissioner Mark Morgan said. Fewer than 100 people were under the agency's custody, a 97% fall from the average of 3,000. Nearly 80% of those found at the border were being removed within hours, Morgan added, saying the "overwhelming majority" were caught crossing illegally. Most were sent back to Mexico while some were returned to their home countries.

Mexico is again providing critical support to those who were expelled. It's accepting not only Mexicans, but people from Guatemala, El Salvador and Honduras who accounted for well over half of all U.S. border arrests last year. However, Carlos Gonzalez Gutierrez, Mexico's consul general in San Diego announced that Mexico won't take unaccompanied children and other "vulnerable people," including people over 65 and those who are pregnant or sick.

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