COVID-19 cases spike among migrants at South Texas detention facility

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LOS FRESNOS, Texas (Border Report) — The number of coronavirus cases among migrant detainees at the Port Isabel Detention Center in South Texas has rapidly increased in the last two weeks.

There are 54 positive cases of coronavirus at the U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement-run facility, with 36 still active, ICE reported Monday on its website.

This is up from four cases on June 5, which had triggered a two-week-long hunger strike by some of the detainees.

Cameron County officials added that seven employees at the Port Isabel Detention Center have also tested positive, according to a news release. An ICE official said the agency does not test employees, that is done by a separate organization, and ICE does not report information on employees.

“We know that the medical unit is full of people and they’ve started using one of the dorms as an overflow space,” said Norma Herrera, a community organizer for the grassroots coalition Rio Grande Valley Equal Voice Network.

Herrera says detainees have told her ICE officials are not testing all detainees for the virus.

“They’re refusing to test everyone. This past Saturday, 32 people in one dorm requested testing because they felt sick and were not tested,” she said.

ICE reports that nationwide 863 of the 24,000 detainees at migrant detention facilities have tested positive for coronavirus.

Herrera said her organization wants Cameron County officials to put pressure on the federally-run facility to explain why not all migrants who request a COVID-19 test are getting one.

The Port Isabel facility is in a remote section of Cameron County, just four miles from the Gulf of Mexico, but miles from any shops or populated areas.

“We’re asking folks to get in touch with Cameron County officials, the county judge and the health administrator. They’re in a position to ensure more testing at the facility and to investigate what protocol they’re using to test some and not others,” Herrera said.

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