Third detainee tests positive for COVID-19

U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement on Monday confirmed that a third detainee inside the Port Isabel Detention Center in Los Fresnos has tested positive for COVID-19.

The detainee is a 27-year-old from Guatemala. The agency declined to provide any further information on the detainee’s condition.

On May 27, ICE confirmed that a 19-year-old detainee from Haiti had tested positive, the second detainee to contract the virus since May 14, when the agency said a 20-year-old male from Mexico tested positive.

Local organizers in touch with detainees inside the facility have received messages from detainees indicating that there may be more than one dormitory in quarantine inside PIDC.

ICE did not confirm whether those dormitories were under quarantine, responding with generalized information available on the agency’s website under its published COVID-19 guidance.

The agency wrote that “Detainees who meet CDC criteria for epidemiologic risk of exposure to COVID-19 are housed separately from the general population. ICE places detainees with fever and/or respiratory symptoms in a single medical housing room, or in a medical airborne infection isolation room specifically designed to contain biological agents, such as COVID-19. This prevents the spread of the agent to other individuals and the general public. ICE transports individuals with moderate to severe symptoms, or those who require higher levels of care or monitoring, to appropriate hospitals with expertise in high-risk care. Detainees who do not have fever or symptoms, but meet CDC criteria for epidemiologic risk, are housed separately in a single cell, or as a group, depending on available space.”

ICE has continued to transport detainees between facilities across the country, potentially facilitating the spread of COVID-19 in its detention centers because the agency does not test asymptomatic detainees, according to reports published over the weekend.

Activists with Witness at the Border have been tracking those flights since the beginning of January in an attempt to shed light on how the agency is placing undocumented immigrants in harm’s way.

A protest is set to take place on Saturday, organized by Detention Watch Network, Angry Tias and Abuelas of the Rio Grande Valley, and RGV Equal Voice Network. “Public health experts predict that once there are 5 or more cases in a facility, between 72 percent and 100 percent of people detained there could contract COVID-19 within 90 days, potentially overwhelming hospitals in the area,” organizers wrote.

According to the event’s description, there are two men detained locally currently on hunger strike. In retaliation, ICE has thrown them in solitary confinement,” organizers wrote, confirming that hunger strikes reported since March have either continued or have been re-organized.

esheridan@brownsvilleherald.com