Wednesday, May 18, 2022

In 2022, COVID-19 Infections Increase by 520% in U.S. Immigration Detention Centers

COVID-19 infections among immigrants detained at U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) centers has increased by 520% since the start of 2022, calling for increased vaccination efforts and detainee releases.

This week, 1,766 immigrants were isolated or being monitored due to positive COVID-19 infections. Government statistics show, a more than sixfold jump from January 3, when there were 285 active cases.

In a network of 200 detentions, the number of detainees with active COVID-19 cases represents 8% of the 22,000 detainees ICE is holding.

So far, ICE has reported 11 COVID-19 related deaths of detained immigrants.

The recent increase in COVID-19 cases in ICE detention centers comes after the rapid nationwide spread of the Omicron variant, which is more transmissible than other strains of the virus.

In a statement, ICE stated the COVID-19 positivity rate is lower in some spots significantly lower than the local community because of the strict testing and quarantine protocols in place.

The increase in infections has renewed concerns about ICE’s detainee vaccination campaign, vaccine refusal rate, facility-to facility transfers and the decision to keep immigrants with underlying medical issues in detention.

The number of ICE detainees who have received a vaccine has doubled since August 2021.

Scott Allen, a doctor focused on the medical treatment of migrants in U.S custody, states that “making vaccines available to detainees is essential but it must be coupled with effective education and counseling to overcome skepticism and confusion regarding COVID and vaccinations.”

“U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) remains committed to applying CDC guidance and providing vaccine education that ensures those in our care and custody can make an informed choice during this global pandemic,” ICE stated.

During the pandemic, the U.S. Customs and Border Protection has not been providing COVID-19 testing or vaccinations to migrants in custody, arguing that its detention facilities are for short-term custody.

“The government absolutely has a responsibility to protect individuals it detains, as well as staff and surrounding communities, from a serious threat such as COVID by using all reasonable tools including education, population reduction, testing, masks, and vaccinations including boosters,” Steve Allen, Public Health expert states.

CBS NEWS