An immigrant resident at the Krome Prison Center in Miami-Dade has tested positive for the corona virus, the Miami Herald confirmed Tuesday.
The prisoner, a 29-year-old Mexican citizen, was taken to a nearby Miami area hospital on March 9 for an unrelated coronavirus problem. A few weeks later, the inmate began to experience flu-like symptoms and finally tested positive, according to a congressional message sent out Tuesday.
The arrested person is still in the hospital and has not returned to the detention center since he was transported for medical care. Anyone who was in contact with the detainee was quarantined, according to the message.
For weeks ̵
“While it is true that no prisoners currently in the detention center tested positive for COVID-19, it is also not entirely accurate because tests are not carried out on site and prisoners are sent to an out-of-hospital hospital for testing,” a federal official who has firsthand knowledge of the situation inside the detention center said.
The official added: “It is believed that one of the officers who tested positive for the disease because that officer monitored the prisoner who tested positive for COVID-19. This information is not shared with any employees. “
ICE did not respond to emails from the Herald on Tuesday, requesting comment. Some congressmen were informed about seven new positive coronavirus cases nationwide, Krome among them, in addition to facilities in Arizona, Louisiana, Michigan, New Jersey and Pennsylvania.
On Monday, the Herald reported that two employees working at the Krome detention center tested positive for the coronavirus. The two guards work for Akima Global Services, the state contractor who runs the facility for ICE.
Federal sources say that additional AGS officials have since “tested positive and many more of the officials are either awaiting testing or awaiting results.”
For about a month, ICE has published on its website the number of confirmed cases of coronavirus for its prisoners and federal employees across the country. As of Tuesday afternoon, 19 prisoners and seven staff in the ICE detention center have tested positive for the virus.
However, these numbers do not reflect the number of third-party contractors working on ICE facilities that have tested positive for COVID-19 or inmates in the hospital with the disease. The new prisoner cases announced on Tuesday were published on the ICE website – except for one: the case of the Krome prisoner, which was the only prisoner noted in the Congressional briefing that was in a hospital. ICE said the exclusion was a monitoring and that it has since been added to the list.
Nor is it mentioned how many people at their facilities have been tested or monitored for the virus.
The agency told the Herald last week “it’s not something we have to provide.” An ICE spokesman on Sunday added that it is not ICE’s role to publish or discuss information about a third party working on the ICE facility. According to ICE data, the agency had 222 detention centers across the country as of March 2, and at least 217 of them were contracting to a third party.
According to ICE, the agency did not disclose the positive case of COVID-19 regarding Krome prisoner to a Herald reporter when asked because it was not currently detained in ICE custody in the detention center, but rather in a hospital.
Frank LoMonte, director of the Brechner Center for Freedom of Information at the University of Florida, says there is no absolute legal constraint for agencies to publish statistics, that they are only required to respond if they receive a Freedom of Information request.
“But they should definitely not put out incomplete or misleading numbers that give a false sense of insurance,” LoMonte said. “Storage” is a specific legal term and it means more than just “physical custody.” If a prisoner is in a van that goes from prison to the hospital, he is still in custody, even if he is not in a cell. So it is misleading if ICE number of patients in custody omits people who are hospitalized. “
He added: “You can expect the sickest to be taken to the hospital, so if the statistics exclude these people, we don’t hear about the most serious cases. ICE may have 50,000 prison beds and half a million people per year go through these detention centers, so if there is a widespread transmission of COVID-19, there are potentially many people at risk. “
According to two security guards at Krome, ICE and AGS have not yet provided employees with any specific information about who has been exposed to the disease.
“In fact, what they do is to order all officials who have identified themselves to have any interaction with these two employees, not to sign up for duty and remove them from work without pay until they can be tested and cleared for work” Said a guard who asked to be anonymous.
The guard added: “Unfortunately, this is mainly due to the infected officers’ reminder of who they may have come in contact with. Thus, inadvertently omits any infected employees by not asking all employees to report any contact they may have had with the positively confirmed officials. They also refuse to pay to have them tested. “
Another guard said: “Officers and their families are unnecessarily jeopardized by the management team, who are more concerned about getting costs for having to pay overtime than officers’ security. Only now that officials have tested positive are they forced to take action and get some officers tested while still leaving it out to employees, prisoners and the public that at least one prisoner from Krome is confirmed to have COVID-19. “
Both guards noted that only some staff receive personal protective equipment – and that face masks need to be reused for several days at a time.
John Sandweg, former acting director of ICE and former acting director general of the U.S. Department of Homeland Security, told the Herald on Monday that “ICE officials, agents and contractors deserve to know the risks they take to perform their duty. When this information is withheld, these men and women are deprived of an opportunity to think of policies that can make them less secure. “
“ICE should not only reveal the number of confirmed cases, but also the number of tests administered in these facilities,” Sandweg said. “ICE must exercise maximum transparency when it comes to the security of officials and employees.”
During the past month, quarantines in immigration centers in Miami-Dade, Broward and Glades counties have been mounted after several prisoners developed influenza-like symptoms and were sent to the hospital.
But prisoners are not the only ones who get sick. According to three federal employees at the asylum office – state employees interviewing detainees in detention centers for their asylum cases – several employees tested positive for COVID-19 after visiting the Krome office.
Although the Executive Office for Immigration Review lists Krome’s immigration court as open, lawyers and staff told the Herald that it has been closed for more than a week after the government conducted a deep cleaning of the premises.
On Sunday, after nearly 23 years of immigrant housing for the federal government, the Monroe County Detention Center in Key West suddenly closed its contract with ICE. The prisoners in Monroe are regularly transferred to and from the Immigration Court in Miami-Dade for their federal hearings. Sources told the Herald that the frequent trips to the cramped facility in Miami had the sheriff’s office unpleasant about the possibility that the corona virus could easily be transmitted.
The influx and constant transfers of prisoners across the country have given rise to national complaints from immigration advocates asking for immigration centers to release prisoners in the midst of the health crisis. In recent weeks, local and state governments across the United States have reduced their prison and prison populations in an effort to prevent a coronavirus outbreak behind bars.
Jessica Schneider, director of the American Immigrant Justice Detention Program, a South Florida immigration legal services organization, said the group “has received disturbing reports from interned clients” about prisoners who are sick and isolated. When the organization reached out to federal officials, she said no information was provided.
“We have heard that many people have flu-like symptoms and receive minimal medical care. We have also been told that some are in quarantine and that some have been taken to the hospital because they were very ill, ”Schneider said. “What we have not received is some form of confirmation from ICE about who has been tested for COVID-19. This lack of information is increasingly worrying as ICE has not created a method for participating in remote legal visits. We have no way to knowing if a visit to a client puts us or our families at risk, leaving immigration lawyers with the unlucky choice to choose between our obligations to our clients and our own health and well-being. “
Following the news of the positive case of COVID-19 in Krome, the U.S. Rope. Debbie Mucarsel-Powell, Donna Shalala, Debbie Wasserman-Schultz and Frederica Wilson a letter to Matthew T. Albence, ICE’s acting manager.
“It is indisputable that individuals are held in conditions such as at Krome during this pandemic that strike the heart of our state and communities,” the lawmakers wrote. “A mass tragedy at Krome and other Florida ICE facilities, including the Broward Transitional Center and Glades County Detention Center, can be avoided. The risk of life for hundreds of immigrants and federal employees can be mitigated. We urge you to immediately extend the use of surveillance of parole or GPS, to all vulnerable persons with no criminal background or non-violent accusations or judgments held at these facilities. “
ICE did not respond to requests from the Herald whether this measure has or will be considered.