Multiple Health Crises Break Out Among ICE Detention Centers

Photo Credit: Joshua Rubin
Since early March, there have been more than 236 cases of mumps in Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) detention centers around the U.S. With very few updates from ICE about the conditions of detainees or its facilities, media outlet Quartz launched an investigation, and found that the disease has now spread to detention centers across the country.
R. Andrew Free, a civil rights and immigration lawyer from Nashville, started a group with other attorneys to track ICE detention centers and their health standards. The group found that more than 30 facilities had detainees quarantined for mumps and/or chickenpox. Quartz then created a spreadsheet filled with their research to bring to state and country health departments. Both departments oversee the exact facilities where the outbreaks were reported.
  • In Louisiana, there is no local oversight at the immigrant detention center. There is also little to no monitoring over disease outbreaks.
  • Since October 2018, Texas reported some 300 cases of mumps at both detention centers and border processing centers. According to activists as well as public health authorities, the disease has also spread to the local populace.
  • In Arizona, where over 3,000 migrants remain in custody, the spread of mumps has become so fatal that local health officials began an investigation into how and why there is such a serious spread of this strain.
  • Local health authorities in Aurora, Colorado helped vaccinate 1,100 detainees and 200 staff members following an outbreak in late May.
Attorneys at the Southern Poverty Law Center found that migrants sometimes go without medical care due to a shortage of doctors and nurses at many facilities. At the same time, the Trump administration is threatening to cut programs that fight gang violence and poverty in countries the majority of migrants flee from.
In response to the outbreaks, ICE has enforced rolling quarantines that are capable of holding thousands of detainees at once for weeks at a time. While quarantined, detainees waive their right to speak with their lawyers and to attend court proceedings. Brendan Raedy, an ICE spokesman told Quartz that each detainee in custody gets “timely access to medical services and equipment.” According to the attorney of Darwin Ramos, a 33-year-old asylum seeker, “GEO, the private company that runs that place, just has so many layers of bullshit and obstacles for you to know anything that’s going on.”
Many groups reached out to GEO for comment on the health standards for detainees and its facilities, but the company referred all questions to ICE which in return referred them to the agency’s detention standards manual.

Jack Waguespack is a student at the University of New Orleans studying political science pre-law and English. He is a two time published author and plans on continuing his journalism career to promote awareness for the LGBTQ+ community and higher education standards for New Orleans students.

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