ICE tactics to limit spread of COVID-19 in detention centers stir controversy

A U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement officer revealed in court documents April 13 that 98 immigrant detainees at the La Palma Correctional Center in Arizona were, as of that morning, “cohorted” and under daily observation due to their exposure to the facility’s first confirmed case of COVID-19 on April 1.

ICE is using the strategy of “cohorting” groups of detainees together who are at risk for developing symptoms after known contact with someone who tested positive. While ICE asserts the tactic follows U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention guidelines, some medical experts say it is a last resort strategy that could lead to the virus spreading further.

Eight immigrants in Arizona detention facilities had tested positive for COVID-19 as of April 15 – two at La Palma and six at the Florence Detention Center. Nationally, confirmed detention center cases jumped from 19 to 89 over the last week.

In all, ICE had more than 32,000 immigrants detained in its network of facilities, privately-run prisons and local jails as of April 11. In Arizona, 2,982 people were in ICE custody – most of them in facilities in Pinal County.

Before Monday’s court filing, ICE had not disclosed how many people in any Arizona immigration detention facility had been cohorted due to exposure. The agency also has not revealed how many detainees have been tested for COVID-19.

Read more at Arizona Center for Investigative Reporting