Health Immigration

ICE Transfers and Deportations Spread COVID-19 Within Detention Centers, Globally

As lockdowns, social distancing, and mask-wearing become the norm all across the world, ICE continues to detain people, moving them from state to state, often deporting them, which is contributing to the rapid spread of the COVID-19 virus both domestically and abroad. 

The Marshall Project and the New York Times conducted an investigation, published July 10, exposing how “unsafe conditions and scattershot testing helped turn ICE into a domestic and global spreader of the virus — and how pressure from the Trump administration led countries to take in sick deportees.”

In the investigation, they spoke to more than 30 immigrants, all of them describing unsanitary and cramped detention centers. They also told stories of protective gear and social distancing being almost nonexistent and impossible. When they got back to their country of origin, at least four deportees that the New York Times interviewed ended up testing positive for COVID-19. 

ICE has confirmed at least 3,000 COVID-19-positive detainees. In the investigation, the Marshall Project and the New York Times tracked over 750 domestic ICE flights since March. On these flights, ICE carried thousands of detainees to different centers, even if they were exhibiting COVID-19 symptoms. They also tracked 200 deportation flights, often with detainees who had tested positive for the virus to other countries. Since March, Honduras and El Salvador accepted more than 6,000 deportees, Trump praising presidents of both the countries and saying that he would provide ventilators to them if they continued doing so. 

When ICE was asked about its own role in spreading the virus, the agency claimed that it followed guidelines of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention and took precautions. Last week though, ICE stated that it is only able to test a sampling of immigrants before sending them to their home countries. Yet, deportations continue with 11 countries confirming that deportees returned home with the virus.

Media Sources: New York Times 07/13/2020; American Progress 07/13/2020; Los Angeles Times 07/13/2020

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