Immigration advocates are reporting that Immigration and Customs Enforcement is refusing to release a Ugandan pastor with worsening diabetes who has been inside the Port Isabel Detention Center since he legally sought asylum at a port of entry a year and a half ago.
The man’s name is Steven. He was previously kept anonymous out of fear of retaliation against him or his ongoing proceedings seeking his release from immigration detention, in part due to his high risk of serious illness if he were to contract the virus.
In a press release on Wednesday, Angry Tias and Abuelas of the Rio Grande Valley detailed the man’s story. “Steven suffered severe repression in his homeland, including torture and the amputation of two of his fingers. His asylum case is now on appeal. Ugandan officials, assuming that he had been returned, have attacked, and brutalized his friends and supporters back home,” the coalition wrote.
“Although he has never committed a crime, and lawfully presented himself at the U.S Port of Entry, he has been detained for a year and a half at the Port Isabel Detention Center.”
Communications coming from detainees inside PIDC in Los Fresnos, where ICE has reported three active COVID-19 cases, suggest that the facility has at least three pods inside its dormitories under quarantine for having come into contact with a suspected or confirmed case.
Steven is diabetic and was able to control the disease through medication, diet, and exercise but has been denied the ability to do so while detained. “Once detained, he was denied a proper diabetic diet, his blood sugars were only checked every three months, and his medications were altered,” the Tias wrote.
“His diabetes is now at dangerous levels, he is going blind from untreated cataracts, and he often develops boils throughout his body, including his private parts.”
Attorneys for Steven have exhausted most of their options to get him released and are now seeking review at the Fifth Circuit Court of Appeals. They will consider asking the court for an injunction in light of the circumstances.
According to ICE’s published COVID-19 guidance, the agency released over 900 individuals after evaluating their immigration history, criminal record, potential threat to public safety, flight risk, and national security concerns.
ICE claimed its detained population has steadily dropped by more than 7,000 individuals since March 1 as a result of a decrease in book-ins, stemming in part from Trump administration’s decision to “immediately” expel anyone caught crossing into the United States without documents under the March 20 CDC order that shut down nonessential travel along the entire U.S./Mexico border.