SAN DIEGO (Border Report) — COVID-19 outbreaks have again hit immigration detention facilities, where hundreds of Immigration and Customs Enforcement detainees are currently in isolation.
According to the ICE website, more than 22,000 migrants are in ICE custody, and almost 1,800 are currently isolated after testing positive for COVID-19.
The outbreaks and isolation are taking place all over the country.
In San Antonio, 190 detainees are being isolated at the Karnes County Residential Center. It’s 175 at the La Palma Correctional Facility in Phoenix, and in New Orleans, at the Adams County Correctional Center, it’s 107.
At the Otay Mesa Detention Center in San Diego, which is operated by the Tennessee-based CoreCivic, it’s 79 detainees in isolation.
“It’s horrible that there should be anyone detained, especially during a pandemic where there is no way
to maintain social distancing,” said Pedro Rios, of the American Friends Service Committee. “What we’re seeing is that ICE and the private companies they hire to detain people do not provide them with the adequate equipment in order to avoid falling ill to this horrendous disease.”
Rios and his migrant advocacy group vehemently oppose the incarceration of most people, especially immigrants during this current COVID-19 pandemic.
“It’s not realistic that CoreCivic should be expected to take care of anyone and so to consider during the pandemic they would be able to take care of anyone, it’s just not reasonable,” Rios said.
But a CoreCivic representative, Ryan Gustin, responded in a statement saying staff at the Otay Mesa Detentions Center are committed to the health and safety of every individual in their care.
“This commitment is shared with our government partners who hold our facilities accountable to the highest standards with on-site, full-time staff to monitor our compliance,” Gustin said in a statement. “Patients with chronic health conditions are treated and regularly monitored by facility medical staff. All detainees and inmates have daily access to sign up for medical care. Our clinic is staffed with licensed, credentialed doctors, nurses and mental health professionals who contractually meet the highest standards of care. CoreCivic also maintains several accreditations from nationally recognized industry leaders such as the American Correctional Association, the National Commission on Correctional Health Care and the Joint Commission on Accreditation of Healthcare Organizations, which ensures we meet the highest standards for health care delivery.”
For Rios, the best course of action would be to let detainees go.
“If they’re set free then the likely thing would be giving them a hearing where they would have to present their cases, most of whom would want to appear because they have active asylum cases or claims, they would want to be heard in front of an immigration judge,” Rios said.
ICE also issued a statement, saying, “(ICE) is working closely with the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) and other federal, state, and local agencies to facilitate a speedy, whole-of-government response in confronting Coronavirus Disease 2019 (COVID-19), keeping everyone safe, and helping detect and slow the spread of the virus. To keep the public, media and family members of those in custody and other stakeholders informed, we will update this site frequently during this extremely fluid situation.”