1,900 Test Kits Were Sent to the Detention Center, but Few Were Used
LOS ANGELES — In a shocking discovery, it has been found that although about 1,900 COVID-19 test kits were sent to the immigrant detention center in Adelanto, U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) officials refused to allow the vast majority of them to be used.
The refusal to give tests to people who are symptomatic of the virus infection is not only medically and morally repugnant, it also violates the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) guidelines for custodial institutions.
Last night, the American Civil Liberties Union Foundation of Southern California and the law firm Latham & Watkins LLP filed a motion in U.S. District Court to force ICE at Adelanto to follow the CDC guidelines as they were previously ordered to do.
“I cannot imagine how scary it must feel to be one of the hundreds of jailed immigrants who have experienced COVID-19 symptoms but cannot access a test, even though ICE has well over a thousand test kits available,” said Ahilan Arulanantham, senior counsel at the ACLU SoCal.
The previous order to follow the CDC guidelines was issued on April 23 as part of a preliminary injunction in the lawsuit Roman v. Wolf concerning conditions at Adelanto. During the discovery phase of the lawsuit, emails and other materials revealed substantial violations of the CDC guidelines, including on COVID-19 testing.
On May 23, an official at the private company GEO Group Inc., which operates the Adelanto center on contract, sent a message that about 1,900 test kits — enough to test all people detained and staff members at Adelanto — were overnight shipped to the facility.
GEO planned to “begin offering testing to all staff and all detainees” on the day the test kits arrived. But astonishingly, ICE halted the plan. Gabriel Valdez, the ICE officer in charge of Adelanto, stated, “I don’t want any detainees tested through this voluntary process.”
As of May 27, ICE allowed testing of new arrivals at the facility, but not of those already there. The testing record reflected this — 305 people detained at Adelanto presented COVID-19 symptoms between March 1 and July 15, but only one of them was tested.
“No one I know has gotten tested for COVID-19 at Adelanto,” said Luis Yboy Flores, a nearly 40-year old man who has lived in the United States since the age of 3 but remains jailed at Adelanto while he litigates his deportation case. “No staff have told us how to get a test. I believe the Adelanto staff have not tested us because if they did, it might reveal that a lot of people here would test positive.”
The revelations come after similar ICE tactics came to light last week in an ACLU lawsuit against another ICE immigration jail in Bakersfield. In that case, the judge strongly criticized ICE and ordered them to test all the detainees.
The court filing reports other violations of CDC guidelines, including those that highly restrict the transfer of detained people to and from facilities. But ICE ignored the restrictions, including when transferring into Adelanto people from facilities with active COVID-19 outbreaks.
The filing on Monday asks the court to order ICE officials at Adelanto to:
- Test all individuals who report symptoms of COVID-19.
- Cease transferring people into the facility other than for reasons specified by CDC guidance.
Read the court filing here: https://www.aclusocal.org/sites/default/files/aclu_socal_roman_20200810_mtn_enforcement_pi_cdc_guidance.pdf
Read about the Roman v. Wolf lawsuit here: https://www.aclusocal.org/en/press-releases/aclu-sues-ice-over-conditions-adelanto-center-rife-covid-19.