On Friday, August 28, Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) announced 233 new cases of COVID-19 at La Palma Correctional Center in Eloy, AZ, signaling that the outbreak in ICE detention centers is far from controlled. This news underscores that the only way to ensure that detained immigrants are protected from COVID-19 is to release them so that they, too, may practice social distancing and take precautions against spread of COVID-19.

“It is unconscionable that people in immigration detention continue to be trapped inside these facilities as this virus spreads like wildfire,” said Laura St. John, Florence Project Legal Director. “For months, we have called for people in immigration detention to be released because we feared that exactly this would happen. The government either does not have the interest or the ability to contain this virus inside detention centers, and people’s lives are on the line. Thousands of people in immigration detention have been unnecessarily exposed to and become ill with COVID-19 because ICE and the federal government refuse to release them.  We reiterate today that release from detention is the only way to protect the health and safety of detained migrants.”

Additionally, our clients are once again reporting inhumane conditions inside the facility. They are again telling us that large portions of the detention center are locked down, and they are being fed cold, boxed meals three times a day. One client, who has COVID and asthma, reports that while a nurse comes to check on him twice a day, he has yet to see a doctor.

On Tuesday, August 25, our clients began telling us that everyone detained in the facility had been tested and that they were hearing that there were over 200 new cases. Yet this information was not confirmed and disclosed by ICE until today. Failing to share this for the better part of a week is negligent. Detention center health is public health, and ICE has the moral responsibility to protect the people in its custody, the people it employs, and the people in the broader community.