[guest post by Dana]
Immigration and Customs Enforcement agents are repeatedly releasing detainees who have been diagnosed with the coronavirus… In one example, an asylum-seeker from Cameroon was driven from immigration detention to a bus station in the California border city of Calexico and, when volunteers greeted him and offered help, he told them he had been diagnosed with COVID-19. The next day, a Cuban man was dropped off who had also just tested positive.
Jules Kramer, chief of operations at the Minority Humanitarian Foundation, a nonprofit that aids migrants and refugees on both sides of the U.S.-Mexico border. “It’s a threat to public safety. It’s a threat to our asylum seekers. It’s a threat to the people on the ground helping.
ICE officials said in a statement that the medical staff at the Imperial Regional Detention Facility, where they were monitoring 12 people who have the virus as of late last week, tests people for the virus before they are released, and counsels them on federal health guidelines such as wearing personal protective equipment and quarantining.
“U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement is firmly committed to the health and welfare of all those in its custody,” spokeswoman Paige Hughes said in a statement. “In these particular instances, ICE had no legal authority to continue detention for the individuals referenced.”
“In addition, the individual’s sponsor, should they have one, and the Imperial County public health officials are notified,” she added. The agency would not say whom it notified.
However, Imperial County officials said not so fast, ICE:
Imperial County officials gave a different account, saying ICE did not notify them that they were releasing people diagnosed with the virus.
“The unknown release of COVID positive nonresidents of the County is definitely a concern for the health of our community, but in recognizing that these individuals are in need of humanitarian aid, the County of Imperial took action,” Rebecca Terrazas-Baxter, the county’s intergovernmental relations director, said in a statement.
From the report:
Nearly 10,000 detainees have been infected with the virus and nine have died. More than 420 detainees have the virus, up from 370 a few days ago, according to the agency’s website.
And while this is in reference to the surge of unaccompanied minors currently being detained in the U.S., it seems that if ICE is releasing COVID positive individuals into the population – without warning – then that just emphasizes the multi-layered severity of the crisis at the border:
Only a week ago, Homeland Security Secretary Alejandro Mayorkas declined to use the word “crisis” as his agency shifted border-patrol deployments because of a surge of migrants coming from Mexico. President Joe Biden ignored a question about the issue during a Tuesday event on pandemic relief for small business. White House press secretary Jen Psaki wouldn’t accept that word either at her briefing Tuesday.
“Look, I don’t think we need to sit here and put new labels on what we have already conveyed is challenging, what we have conveyed is a top priority for the president,” Psaki said. But semantic arguments aside, it’s indisputably a mess, with the number of unaccompanied children arriving in the U.S. reportedly tripling in just the last two weeks, according to reports.