UPDATED: Border Patrol official walks back comments about HIV, family separations

UPDATED: Border Patrol official walks back comments about HIV, family separations

A top Border Patrol official is walking back statements he made this week regarding the possibility that someone who is HIV-positive could be separated from their family if there were held after crossing the border.

After saying during a House hearing Thursday that being HIV-positive was enough of a reason under communicable disease guidelines to separate parents from their children, Border Patrol's chief of law enforcement Brian Hastings told The Hill in a statement Friday that this was not the case. 

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"CBP [Customs and Border Protection] would not separate families due to the communicable nature of HIV," he said, adding that the virus "does present additional considerations that may affect how migrants might move forward in processing." 

He said that separations of this nature are generally due to potential requirement for hospitalization and whether it was in a child's best interest to wait for their parent in CBP or Health and Human Services custody. 

"Border Patrol makes all separation decisions on a case-by-case basis and these decisions are not taken lightly," he said. 

Hasting said during an exchange with Rep. Jamie RaskinJamin (Jamie) Ben RaskinDemocrats gear up for high-stakes Judiciary hearing Lawmakers to watch during Wednesday's impeachment hearing Pelosi faces tough choices on impeachment managers MORE (D-Md.) that separations based on HIV status are permitted under guidelines that cover communicable diseases. 

Referring to HIV-positive status, Raskin asked Hastings if "that alone" was enough to justify separating a parent from a child. 

Hastings replied, "It is. It's a communicable disease under the guidance."

"We have reports of people being separated from their kids on that basis," Raskin responded, adding that HIV is not passed through "ordinary contact."

"That's the guidance that we follow," Hastings said. 

Hastings noted, after a question by Raskin, that parents and children are not separated based on whether they have the flu.

A spokesperson for Raskin told The Hill in a statement Friday that their office had received the clarified statement from Hastings but was "still troubled by the vague and subjective standard for separations due to 'communicable diseases.'"

Raskin had said in a statement following the hearing that he had referred to a July 12 Quartz article that said a man was separated from his 11, 12, and 14-year old daughters because he was HIV positive.

The Hill has reached out to Raskin for additional information. 

According to HIV.gov, the disease can only be transmitted by "coming into direct contact with certain body fluids from a person with HIV who has a detectable viral load."

The policy of family separations was halted last year after it came under bipartisan scrutiny. 

-- Updated at 6:11 p.m.