September 11, 2021

ICE detention center response to COVID-19 a look at future pandemic handling

The Office of Inspector General found ICE detention centers weren’t following guidelines to prevent the spread of COVID-19.

ICE arrests A March 2018 photo of U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) officers.
ICE/Flickr

At the height of the pandemic, COVID-19 spread easily in enclosed environments crowded with people. That includes detention centers managed by Immigration and Customs Enforcement. Investigators now say there was little testing being done of detainees or staff.

The Office of Inspector General found ICE detention centers, including those in Arizona, weren’t following guidelines to prevent the spread of COVID-19.

Investigators conducted surprise inspections and overall, found sufficient protective equipment and cleaning measures. But, for example, some detainees were not fully informed of COVID-19 test results. And staff met with detainees without wearing masks.

Staff also ignored calls for help from detainees who complained about symptoms that could have been related. In one instance, a detainee complained of symptoms for days and said they were never tested.

Investigators warned ICE needs to be prepared for future pandemics.

Fronteras Desk
Fronteras Desk is a KJZZ project covering important stories in an expanse stretching from Northern Arizona deep into northwestern Mexico.
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