DHS Secretary Chad Wolf Visits Arizona Border, Doesn't Wear Mask

By Michel Marizco
Published: Tuesday, May 12, 2020 - 5:55pm
Updated: Wednesday, May 13, 2020 - 9:48am

Homeland Security Department
DHS Acting Secretary Chad Wolf (from left) and Nogales CBP officials Michael Humphries and Guadalupe Ramirez meet at the Nogales port of entry.

The acting secretary of the Homeland Security Department visited Nogales and Tucson to watch U.S.-Mexico border security operations in Arizona on Tuesday. Like U.S. government officials, the issue of masks to protect against the spread of the coronavirus came up. 

Chad Wolf was ambiguous about whether federal immigration agents are wearing masks to help protect the public they encounter in southern Arizona. 

"Everyone I saw, even folks that really weren’t coming into contact with me that I saw at a distance, everyone was wearing PPE so I don’t think that’s an issue at all," Wolf said. 

Earlier in the day, Wolf posted photos to Twitter of himself and Customs officials, Nogales Port Director Michael Humphries and Nogales Director of Field Operations Guadalupe Ramirez at the Nogales port of entry standing together, none wearing a protective mask. 

Wolf first said that border agents are given masks but not required to wear them. A Border Patrol spokesman, Joe Curran, later clarified the acting secretary's remarks. He said as of last week, Border Patrol agents who work the primary lane at checkpoints, arrest people or work in processing centers are now mandated to wear masks. People apprehended are also mandated to wear masks. Curran said it was possible Wolf did not know of the new rule yet.

CBP data shows about 340 agents and employees were infected with the coronavirus. Agents this week encountered a drug smuggler in the Rio Grande Valley who tested positive for COVID-19.

Wolf used the visit to highlight successes by the Trump administration at the border. A year ago, CBP in Arizona was beginning to report an overwhelmed Border Patrol in southern Arizona as asylum seekers and other immigrants arrived at the Arizona-Sonora border.

"Today, we have four here," Wolf said.

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