ICE blamed for 245,000 COVID-19 cases as watchdog says its detention centers were a ‘hotbed of infections’ that spread the virus into surrounding communities
- A study released Wednesday by Detention Watch Network found U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement responsible for a COVID-19 outbreak
- The advocacy group found that coronavirus infections at ICE detention centers were eventually spread to neighboring communities
- Detention Watch Network learned more that 245,000 positive cases in the country were directly related to infections at ICE detention centers
- As of Wednesday, ICE reported 496 active coronavirus cases at 112 detention centers, where eight detainees died while in custody
- Overall, ICE detected 7,851 positive cases within its undocumented immigrant inmate population since the start of the pandemic
An independent immigration watchdog report found that U.S. Immigration and Customs’ approach – or lack thereof – in addressing the COVID-19 pandemic inside its detention centers caused more than 245,000 infections.
The ‘Hotbed of Infections’ study released Wednesday by the Detention Watch Network said that ICE’s long history of medical neglect and poor conditions within its prison system – including centers which are privately owned – opened the door to at least 7,851 positive cases within its undocumented immigrant inmate population.
‘The impact of ICE’s failure to adequately respond to the pandemic was far reaching and multilayered,’ the analysis says.
Stewart Detention Center in Lumpkin, Georgia, has reported three inmate deaths related to the coronavirus pandemic. The jail is privately owned and contracted by U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement to detain undocumented immigrants awaiting deportation. The jail has reported 395 positive cases, the second-most among ICE’s detention centers
U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement’s La Palma Correctional Facility in Eloy, Arizona has reported confirmed COVID-19 cases. The Detention Watch Network’s ‘Hotbeds of Infections’ report discovered that by August 1, at least 5.5% of the coronavirus infections in the United States were attributed to ICE
By World Health Organization standards, the 245,000 ‘COVID-19 cases attributed to spread caused by ICE detention in the United States would have outranked countries including Germany, France, and Canada.’
Detention Watch Network’s study found that the chances of spreading the virus to the non-prison population in surrounding communities increased throughout the pandemic as jail employees traveled constantly to and from their homes, thus passing along the deadly virus to inmates and their friends, family members and strangers.
Reports of lack of access to PPP or soap for inmates and workers ‘not regularly wearing PPE’ exacerbated an already dire situation.
Detention Watch Network also blamed ICE’s continued practice of transferring detainees within its prison system and massive operations targeting undocumented immigrants with deportation orders as key contributors to the rise of positive cases.
At least five detention centers reported over 300 cases, including La Palma Correctional Facility in Eloy, Arizona, where 495 detainees have been infected with the coronavirus – the most in the system.
The outbreak has killed eight inmates in custody of ICE, including three at the Lumpkin, Georgia, Stewart Detention Center, which has reported 395 confirmed cases, second-most in ICE’s system.
Guatemalan national Santiago Baten-Oxla, died in May after contracting the virus while in detention.
ICE’s Bluebonnet Detention Facility in Anson, Texas, has registered 350 confirmed coronavirus cases during the pandemic.
The virus also was the cause of death of one detainee at Immigration Centers of America – Farmville in Farmville, Virginia. The detention center has documented 339 positive cases.
As of Wednesday, ICE had reported 496 detainees were currently receiving care for the coronavirus.
‘This report adds to the body of research that points to ICE’s abuse and medical neglect of people in detention, and its failure to adequately respond to the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic,’ the Detention Watch Network study alleges.
‘ICE’s failure to release people led to higher numbers of COVID-19 cases in counties where detention centers are located and the economic areas that surround them.’