A new troubling trend has surfaced which is showing much higher COVID infection rates for immigrants at ICE facilities. Hundreds of immigrants in U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement detention centers tested positive for the coronavirus this past week, compared with just 59 inside the much-larger Bureau of Prisons, which is a huge difference. Lawyers and lawmakers are urging the Biden administration to swiftly vaccinate all detainees. Infections in ICE detention have risen from 370 in mid-March to nearly 1,500 this week because more migrants are crossing the U.S.-Mexico border and many are arriving infected, federal officials said. But the ACLU says ICE has failed to create the type of robust vaccination program that helped the BOP drive down infections, and it told the Department of Homeland Security in a letter Thursday that detention centers have been “among the most dangerous” places during the pandemic.
It is extremely troubling that any detainee who wants a COVID vaccination still may not get it. Individual immigration detention centers in Texas, Georgia and Louisiana each had more positive cases this week than the entire BOP, which holds nearly 130,000 people for criminal offenses and initially was hit hard by the pandemic. ICE is detaining 22,000 immigrants for civil deportation proceedings. The disparity is emerging as the Biden administration is pushing to vaccinate everyone in the United States – including unauthorized immigrants – and the Department of Homeland Security has said it would not reduce ICE’s funding in the Biden administration’s fiscal 2022 budget, which is set for release Friday.