The multiple crossings into this country by a Mexican citizen with a highly-contagious form of tuberculosis continue to raise concerns. Senate Homeland Security and Government Affairs Chairman Joe Lieberman (I-Conn.) and Ranking Member Susan Collins (R-Maine) are not about to let up on the Homeland Security Department. Last week during a hearing on terrorist watch lists Collins in particular made clear she was not satisfied with the responses to her questions about the case from department official Paul Rosenzweig. Now they have fired off a letter to Secretary Michael Chertoff demanding he respond by November 6th to a rather daunting list of 31 questions surrounding the case of Amado Isidro Armendariz Amaya, who has been diagnosed with multi-drug resistant tuberculosis (MDR-TB).
In their cover letter they point out that Amaya “was allowed to repeatedly enter the U.S. between April 16 and May 31, 2007, despite a lookout being placed in the CBP computer-based screening system for him." Furthermore they write that:
We are troubled by the slow release of information to our Committee from the Department about the Amaya case, some of which has proven to be contradicted by other government sources. In particular, we are concerned that the Department claimed to have originally received only an alias for Mr. Amaya, but later reported that it received a complete last name and middle name for him. Furthermore, DHS officials reported that they could not provide the Committee with information about the flights that Mr. Amaya took within the U.S. after DHS was alerted to his health status. The CDC, however, stated that it had received Mr. Amaya’s flight information from the Office of Health Affairs at DHS. We expect to receive complete and accurate information on this case in a timely manner.
The letter also points out that during the same time period, Department officials were:
...briefing Congress on the case of Andrew Speaker, an American who was also infected with MDR-TB and who was also admitted to the U.S. despite CBP having placed a lookout for him in their computer-based screening system. During the week of June 4, 2007, personnel from the Department, including the Chief Medical Officer and CBP who were involved in both the Amaya and Speaker cases, briefed the Committee on the vulnerabilities in our border systems that allowed Andrew Speaker to re-enter the U.S undetected. However, no one from DHS alerted the Committee of the Mexican national who had entered the U.S. undetected 21 times in the seven prior weeks. We find it troubling that no one from your Department thought it prudent to advise the Senate of the Amaya case at the time that the Committee was investigating the vulnerabilities that allowed another person with MDR-TB and on a watch list to enter the U.S. undetected.
“Troubling” …. is that a polite way of saying “we’re mad as hell”?
-- Beverley Lumpkin