ICE ordered to reduce population at Adelanto immigrant detention center hit by COVID-19

ICE ordered to reduce population at Adelanto immigrant detention center hit by COVID-19

Originally Published in the Los Angeles Times

The City News Desk - September 30, 2020

Family members of detainees at the Adelanto Immigration Detention Center hold signs in front of the Federal Building

Family members and supporters of detainees at the Adelanto Immigration Detention Center hold signs in front of the Los Angeles Federal Building during a news conference to begin a hunger strike protesting poor conditions in the facility. (Brian van der Brug / Los Angeles Times)

A federal judge in Los Angeles on Tuesday ordered the immediate reduction of the population of the Adelanto ICE processing center due to an outbreak of COVID-19 spreading through the facility.

Of 784 immigrants housed at the 1,940-bed detention center, 81 have tested positive for the coronavirus, including nine requiring hospitalization, according to U.S. District Judge Terry Hatter’s written ruling.

The outbreak was most likely caused by a sick staff member, but contact tracing has apparently not been conducted and the source of the outbreak has not been identified, according to Hatter’s order, which modifies a prior injunction.

Hatter said a previous plan to test all Adelanto detainees was quashed “for an unjustified and arbitrary reason” by Gabriel Valdez, ICE’s assistant field office director at Adelanto.

Earlier this month, ICE spokesperson Alexx Pons said that when a detainee exhibits symptoms consistent with COVID-19, immediate action is taken to isolate and monitor, provide care and conduct contact tracing to extrapolate the possible source of the infection.

However, Hatter found that the government’s response to COVID-19 “remains inadequate and objectively unreasonable.”

ADELANTO, CA - NOVEMBER 15: A guard escorts an immigrant detainee from his 'segregation cell' back into the general population at the Adelanto Detention Facility on November 15, 2013 in Adelanto, California. Most detainees in segregation cells are sent there for fighting with other immigrants, according to guards. The facility, the largest and newest Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE), detention center in California, houses an average of 1,100 immigrants in custody pending a decision in their immigration cases or awaiting deportation. The average stay for a detainee is 29 days. The facility is managed by the private GEO Group. ICE detains an average of 33,000 undocumented immigrants in more than 400 facilities nationwide. (Photo by John Moore/Getty Images)

Last week, a federal appeals court panel held that the lower court has the authority to fashion a plan to address the facility’s continuing challenges in dealing with the COVID-19 pandemic. The U.S. 9th Circuit Court of Appeals vacated the core provisions of a preliminary injunction issued by Hatter in April.

The decision was part of a months-long battle over the safety of immigrants detained at the facility, which is owned and operated by the GEO Group, a private prison company.

Hatter ordered that ICE must:

  • File by Monday a population reduction plan that allows detainees to maintain six feet of social distance at all times;
  • Halt intake of any additional detainees at the facility pending further order of the court;
  • Administer weekly COVID-19 tests to all Adelanto detainees who agree to it beginning Monday;
  • File a complete census of all detainees starting Oct. 12 and every Monday thereafter;
  • Require staff to remain six feet away from and to wear masks when in housing units and interacting with one another and detainees;
  • Provide detainees with masks and create conditions that allow for social distancing among detainees; and
  • Provide detainees, at no cost, with sufficient cleaning supplies, soap, paper towels and hand sanitizer and to keep those supplies in stock.

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