Felicia Persaud (26512)
Felicia Persaud

It’s already almost the end of June with the Biden administration looking at increasing the vaccination rates across the country by July 4th. Yet, out of 25,238 immigrant detainees in U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement (U.S. ICE) custody, a whopping 17,519 are COVID-19 positive.

Further, as of June 15, 2021, ICE’s own data shows 588 are under isolation. The majority of the COVID-19 positive immigrant detainees––or 1,426 people––are at the La Palma Correctional Facility in Phoenix, Arizona.

Another 740 are at the South Texas Family Residential Center (Dilley) in San Antonio, Texas and 727 are at the South Texas ICE Processing Center (Pearsall), also in San Antonio. The fourth highest number or 707, is at the Stewart Detention Center in Atlanta, GA.

Some 680 is at the Port Isabel Detention Center in San Antonio while 657 are at the Adams County Correctional Center in New Orleans and 476 at the Bluebonnet Detention Facility in Dallas, TX.

Another 475 are at the El Paso Service Processing Center in El Paso, Texas while 447 are at the Richwood Correctional Center, also in New Orleans.

Countrywide, the majority of COVID-19 cases among detainees are in the San Antonio Field Office division with a whopping 3,831 cases.

New Orleans Field Office Division with 2,650 has the second highest cases, while the third highest cases are in the Phoenix Field Office division with a total of 2,522.

The Atlanta Field Office division has 1,142 cases, while the Dallas Division has 994.

The least number of COVID-19 cases among detainees is in Baltimore with just 3.

Critics say ICE has failed to adhere to other Centers for Disease Control and Prevention guidelines, including reducing unnecessary transfers of detainees between ICE detention facilities, where detainees live in tight quarters behind bars and the virus can easily spread.

Medical experts fear that recent outbreaks in some ICE detention facilities not only endanger the health of detainees and staff but could spread to surrounding communities at a time when more states are relaxing COVID-19 safety precautions.

The ACLU is among critics requesting all ICE detainees have access to COVID-19 vaccines. “ICE detention centers are no different than jails and prisons. These types of facilities are a virus’ delight. With no way to adhere to CDC guidelines, the virus can spread easily and quickly,” Denise Maes, ACLU of Colorado public policy director, said in a statement recently.

ICE has defended its inability to vaccinate all detainees, saying its access to vaccines “varies significantly by state.”

The CDC has recommended everyone get vaccinated against COVID-19, including people who are incarcerated or detained. “Incarcerated or detained people living in correctional and detention facilities are at higher risk of exposure to COVID-19 for various reasons, including being in close proximity (less than 6 feet) to other people,” the CDC states. “Incarcerated people might also be older or have medical conditions that make them more likely to get severely ill from COVID-19.”

Perhaps the administration will take their own CDC’s advice before shipping millions of vaccines out of the country.

The writer is publisher of NewsAmericasNow.