The first Immigration and Customs Enforcement detainee to test positive for the coronavirus has been confirmed, the agency announced on Tuesday.
A 31-year-old Mexican national who was being held at the Bergen County Jail in Hackensack, New Jersey had been quarantined and is receiving care, ICE said in a statement.
“Consistent with CDC guidelines, those who have come in contact with the individual have been cohorted and are being monitored for symptoms,” the agency said.
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The organisation said it will be suspending intake at the facility until further information is available.
Last week, a Bergen County Sheriff’s Office Corrections Officer employed at the Bergen County Jail also tested positive for Covid-19.
ICE’s statement did not provide any information about how the detainee had contracted coronavirus.
The agency has received significant pressure from immigration advocates to release some of it’s more than 37,000 detainees amidst fears of the coronavirus spreading within facilities.
“ICE’s continued inaction made today’s confirmed Covid-19 case in ICE detention a virtual inevitability and further highlights the urgent need to release all individuals in ICE custody immediately,” New York public defenders said in a statement to CNN.
“For weeks, we have received many disturbing reports from our detained clients about the unsanitary conditions that are putting their lives at risk.”
About 47% of people kept in detention by ICE are being held on non-criminal violations of immigration law, according to the agency’s most recent statistics,
With high volumes of people being detained in close quarters it is thought that the sites could become extremely susceptible to severe outbreaks of the virus.
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“People in detention centres are sitting ducks for the spread of this virus,” Andrea Flores, the deputy director of policy for the organisation’s equality division, told CNN.
“The same experts have also predicted that once outbreaks in detention centres begin, they will spread rapidly. The suffering and death that will occur is unnecessary and preventable.”
ICE announced that it will halt most of its arrests and deportations in response to the escalating pandemic, but did not acknowledge whether it would consider releasing current detainees in the statement.
An agency official told Mother Jones that “there has been no announcement related to releasing individuals that are currently detained”.
There have been 375,498 confirmed cases of the Covid-19 worldwide, The World Health Organization reported.
The disease mostly causes mild flu-like symptoms but can be fatal, significantly more so for the elderly and those with pre-existing health conditions.
The death toll for the disease worldwide has reached surpassed 16,000.