More than 5,000 immigrant detainees confirmed as having COVID-19

Felicia J. Persaud | 9/17/2020, midnight
Almost a quarter of the number of immigrants currently in detention by the U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement agency (U.S. ...
Felicia Persaud

Almost a quarter of the number of immigrants currently in detention by the U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement agency (U.S. ICE) have been confirmed with COVID-19.

A recent analysis of ICE data as of Sept. 10 shows the number is 5,686 of the 20,302 immigrants detained currently at detention centers nationally. The majority are in the New Orleans Field Office region, which includes detention centers like the Winn Correctional Center, the Alexandria Staging Facility and the Catahoula Correctional Center.

The second largest number are in the San Antonio Field Office, predominantly at the South Texas ICE Processing Center (Pearsall) and the Rio Grande Detention Center.

The highest number of COVID-19 cases nationally are at the La Palma Correctional Facility in the Phoenix Field Office area and at the Immigration Centers of America–Farmville in the Washington D.C. Field Office area.

As of Friday, Sept. 11, 2020, 616 positive cases were under isolation or being monitored. Of that number, 55 are at the York County Prison in the Philadelphia Field Office region while 53 are at the Mesa Verde ICE Processing Center in the San Francisco Field Office region. Another 44 are at the Jackson Parish Correctional in the New Orleans Field Office region.

Nationally, six immigrant detainees have died from COVID-19 while in ICE custody, including two at the Stewart Detention Center in Atlanta, according to ICE data. One each has died so far at the Immigration Centers of America–Farmville, the Otay Mesa Detention Center in San Diego, the Glades County Detention Center in Miami and the Joe Corley Detention Center in Houston.

There have been 45 confirmed cases of COVID-19 among ICE employees working in ICE detention facilities, with the most—15—at the Alexandria Staging Facility in Alexandria, Louisiana.

As of Sept. 4, ICE released a revised version of its COVID-19 Pandemic Response Requirements (PPR), which now clarifies that whenever possible, ICE will limit transfers of both ICE detainees and non-ICE detained populations to and from other jurisdictions and facilities unless necessary for medical evaluation, medical isolation/quarantine, clinical care, extenuating security concerns, to facilitate release or removal, or to prevent overcrowding. New arrivals who have negative test results and remain symptom free can join the general detained population after the 14-day intake period. Detainees who test positive for COVID-19 will receive appropriate medical care to manage the disease.

The ACLU says it is suing multiple ICE detention centers, including in Washington, Pennsylvania and Maryland, to immediately release individuals from detention who are over the age of 50 and those with conditions that public health experts agree put them at heightened risk of severe illness or death, such as heart and lung disease, pregnancy, HIV and compromised immune systems.

ICE has temporarily suspended social visitation in all of its detention facilities and now offers extended access to telephones, video visitation and with extended hours where possible. ICE says it began providing 520 minutes of free domestic or international phone or video calls per month to detainees on April 22 at all facilities served by Talton Communications, but this just serves approximately 57% of the ICE population. Agency officials say they have been negotiating with all other facilities to provide 500 minutes or more.

Lawyers of ICE detainees must undergo the same screening required for staff entry into the facility for in-person meetings and such legal visits must be approved by the warden or facility administrator.

The writer is publisher of NewsAmericasNow.