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Palm Beach County Immigration Attorney > Blog > Immigration > Immigration’s Transfer of Detainees Makes Spread of COVID-19 Even Worse

Immigration’s Transfer of Detainees Makes Spread of COVID-19 Even Worse


Among the many problems that Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) has been causing, you might not expect that they would be causing a larger outbreak of the COVID-19 virus. But ICE’s practice of transferring detainees could be doing just that.

Detention in Holding Centers

As you can imagine, among the many other human rights problems with detaining immigrants and holding them in cells, detention center conditions are ripe for transferring the highly contagious Coronavirus. When an outbreak happens in one detention facility, all it takes is one transfer of an infected person to another facility, to help the virus spread like wildfire.

Life inside a detention center is a lot like a prison. Although detainees are afforded television and freedom of movement, they often sit, socialize, and sleep in tight quarters. There is almost no opportunity to distance from another inmate.

The Virus Spreads in Detention Centers

A detainee center in Texas as of April had just one confirmed COVID-19 case. However, the facility then received two transfers from another facility who had tested positive for the virus. By late May, thirty-two people in that facility had tested positive, which accounts for about 90% of the number of cases in the entire Texas County.

The problem is not just confined to the detainees. The detainees give it to guards and staff, which go home or who go into the community, and then spread the disease to others.

The problem is that ICE did not follow the advice given to all Americans during the lockdown-to shelter in place. Rather, ICE just kept moving and transferring inmates, sometimes to detention centers all the way across the country. For ICE, when it came to transfers, it was business as usual during a national lockdown. Even the Department of Prisons reduced prisoner transfers by 90% when the lockdown was in effect.

The other problem is that while ICE has a procedure for testing people who are being detained, including doing temperature checks, those same safety measures are not used when a detainee is moved from one facility to another. Testing for the virus is only given to immigrants who show symptoms of the virus. In many cases, when an outbreak happens, ICE doesn’t even know if the outbreak originated from a detainee, or from an employee of ICE or the facility.

Efforts to Stop Transfers Fail

A number of lawmakers tried to demand that the transfers stop, but it appears to be too little too late. ICE’s first reported COVID-19 case in a facility was in March. Since then, the virus was found in individuals in 55 of 200 detention facilities. Of those immigrants tested (and many immigrants are not afforded testing), close to 1,500 have tested positive.

If you are having problems with customs or facing deportation, get help immediately. Contact the Palm Beach County immigration attorneys at Devore Law Group to help you with your immigration problems.





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