Reported by DANIEL O’KEEFE, CONTRIBUTOR | July 06, 2021
A major surge in coronavirus infections is being recorded at crowded U.S. immigration detention centers, according to The New York Times.
As apprehensions at the border spiked in recent months, the number of migrants being held in detention centers has almost doubled, with more than 26,000 migrants being detained in facilities last week, compared to about 14,000 in April, according to the Immigration and Customs Enforcement Agency (ICE). As a result, more than 7,500 new cases of COVID-19 have been reported in the centers between April and last week, and account for more than 40% of all reported cases in ICE facilities since the beginning of the pandemic, according to The New York Times.
Public health officials have warned of the threats that increasingly crowded facilities pose during the pandemic, noting how few of the detained migrants received the vaccines, according to CNN. Only around 20% of the detainees coming into the migration centers have received at least one dose of a coronavirus vaccine, The New York Times reported.
Dr. Sharon Dolovich, director of the Covid Behind Bars Data Project at the University of California, Los Angeles, expressed her concerns about the low rates of vaccination among migrant detainees, in a statement to The New York Times.
“You have people coming in and out of the facility, into communities where incomplete vaccination allows these variants to flourish, and then you bring them inside the facilities, and that variant will spread,” she said. “What you’re describing is the combination of insufficient vaccination plus the evolution of the virus, and that is really scary.”
ICE has been the subject of criticism over the last year due to its handling of the coronavirus in its detention facilities.
The American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) filed a lawsuit in November 2020 against the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) and ICE in an effort to force federal agencies to release information about the Trump administration’s handling of the pandemic in immigration detention centers.
“For the better part of this year, public health experts have been sounding the alarm that immigrant detention centers would be hotspots for the spread of COVID-19. Fiscal Year 2020, which ended September 30, was the deadliest year for ICE detention in 15 years,” the ACLU claimed in a statement at the time. “This year has also seen numerous reports about the lack of even basic COVID precautions taken by ICE, as well as evidence that ICE has attempted to silence detainees who tried to speak out for better care.”
Former President Donald Trump has also been a harsh critic of the Biden administration’s handling of the border crisis. Last week, the former president accepted Republican Texas Gov. Greg Abbott’s invitation to visit the southern border. “We have a sick country in many ways,” Trump said at an event with Texas officials and law enforcement, according to The Hill. “It’s sick in elections, and it’s sick in the border. And if you don’t have good elections, and if you don’t have a strong border, you don’t have a country.”