Sinclair Broadcast Group furthered long-running right-wing media efforts to smear immigrants as disease carriers by lying about the COVID-19 testing procedures established by the Biden administration for migrants being released from custody into the U.S. While Customs and Border Protection does not test people for COVID-19, a Department of Homeland Security inspector general report confirmed that all migrants released into the U.S. are tested by other agencies and charities, per a policy established in February.
During a September 14 interview on The National Desk -- which airs on 68 TV stations owned and operated by Sinclair -- Mark Morgan of the anti-immigrant extremist group Federation for American Immigration Reform (FAIR) called migrants “mobile petri dishes,” an attack he has made before on Sean Hannity’s radio show. Morgan said that “it's unconscionable, it's hypocrisy” that the Biden administration is “not doing” COVID-19 testing or vaccination for migrants who are released into the U.S.
Then, on September 17, Sinclair national correspondent Kristine Frazao falsely suggested that no migrants are being tested for COVID-19 by citing a Department of Homeland Security inspector general report which said that U.S. Customs and Border Protection "does not conduct COVID-19 testing for migrants crossing the southwest border.” According to a transcript search of the Kinetiq video database, Frazao’s report aired on at least 51 Sinclair stations in 36 states.
But these claims, suggesting that no migrants entering the U.S. are tested for COVID-19, are flat-out false. Frazao’s lie of omission is especially glaring -- the very next sentence in that IG report she cited says: “Instead, CBP relies on local public health systems to test symptomatic individuals.” Further down, the report is much more clear that the administration tries to ensure every migrant released into the U.S. has undergone COVID-19 testing, citing the DHS Office of the Executive Secretary (emphasis added):
Since February 2021, through robust partnerships with state, local, and non-governmental organizations, in coordination with the CMO, the Department has developed a multi-layer framework that ensures all noncitizens entering the United States are tested for COVID-19 prior to onwards travel into the United States. After initial health screening by CBP at the point of encounter, noncitizens are tested by ICE (single adults), [state, local, tribal, and territorial government/non-governmental organizations] partnerships and [DHS Countering Weapons of Mass Destruction Office] contractors in support of CBP (family units), or HHS (unaccompanied children).
In addition, the suggestion by both Morgan and Frazao that CBP agents are being unfairly put in harm’s way by dealing with untested and/or unvaccinated migrants is undermined by the National Border Patrol Council's resistance to the CBP’s vaccination rules, its opposition to the administration’s federal employee vaccine mandate, and its support for personnel who refuse to get the COVID-19 vaccines.
While the IG report says there are problems carrying out the testing plan, it's clearly a lie to suggest that none of these people are being tested, as Morgan and Frazao did. Sinclair has fearmongered about COVID-positive migrants and a lack of CBP testing before. Fact-checkers have also previously debunked both this claim and the related insinuation that these migrants are responsible for the COVID-19 surge in the U.S.
Regarding Morgan’s complaint that the migrants entering the U.S. haven’t been vaccinated, The Washington Post reported in August that the Biden administration is planning to offer to vaccinate every migrant released into the country. This, combined with the fact that this migrant COVID-19 testing protocol has been in place since February, suggests that Morgan should no longer be Sinclair’s go-to commentator on immigration policy.