US immigration officials spread coronavirus with detainee transfers


PUBLIC Health Specialists on Friday warned the U.S. government that shuffling detainees among immigration detention centres will expose people to COVID-19 and help spread the disease.

U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE), for months, has continued the practice, saying it is taking all necessary precautions.

According to a Reuters review of court records and ICE data, it turns out the health specialists were right.

The analysis of immigration court data identified 268 transfers of detainees between detention centres in April, May and June, after hundreds in ICE custody had already tested positive for COVID-19, the disease caused by the novel coronavirus.

Half of the transfers Reuters identified involved detainees who were either moved from centres with COVID-19 cases to centres with no known cases, or from centres with no cases to those where the virus had spread.

“The Reuters tally is likely just a small fraction of all transfers,’’ former ICE officials said.

ICE does not release data on detainee moves, and court records capture only a smattering of them.

No less than one transfer resulted in a super-spreading event, according to emails from ICE and officials at a detention centre in Farmville, Virginia, court documents and interviews with over a dozen detainees at the facility.

Until that transfer, only two detainees had tested positive at the Farmville centre, both immigrants transferred there in late April.

They were immediately isolated and monitored, and were the only known cases at the facility for more than a month, court records state.

Then on June 2, ICE relocated 74 detainees from Florida and Arizona, more than half of whom later tested positive for COVID-19.

According to ICE data, as of July 16, Farmville was the detention centre hardest-hit by the virus with 315 total cases. (Reuters/NAN)

– Jul. 17, 2020 @ 17:05 GMT |

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