The following statement is from Laura Rivera, director of the Southern Poverty Law Center’s Southeast Immigrant Freedom Initiative, in response to the first positive COVID-19 test of an individual in Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) custody:
"Today, ICE made public what is supposedly 'the first' case of COVID-19 among the nearly 40,000 people in its custody across this country. We know there are many more. And this agency’s attempt to conceal the reality of growing COVID-19 transmission inside detention centers is endangering thousands of precious human lives.
"However, civil society and the Department of Homeland Security’s (DHS) own medical experts are not capitulating to these lies; instead, they are shining a light on the truth. Just today, a leaked DHS report reveals that more than 30 detained people were in isolation or being monitored as early as five days ago. ICE disputes that these were COVID-19 cases, yet the agency refuses to make public the number of COVID-19 tests conducted on people in its custody. The leaked document also shows that nearly 1,500 Homeland Security workers were in self-quarantine. This report follows a whistleblower letter to Congress from DHS medical experts last week warning of a 'tinderbox scenario of a large cohort of people getting sick all at once.'
"Detained immigrants and their families have been warning us for weeks what the government has finally confirmed today. COVID-19 is in detention centers, and the inhumane conditions and dysfunctional medical services on the inside create a worst-case scenario for rapid transmission among the populations caged by ICE.
"If this crisis teaches us anything, it’s that our survival is intertwined. The solution is simple. For the sake of all of those in confinement, for their families, and for all of us, ICE must start releasing all people from detention now."