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8 coronavirus cases reported at immigration detention centers in Arizona
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8 coronavirus cases reported at immigration detention centers in Arizona

From the April's Tucson-area coronavirus coverage: 1,200+ Pima County cases, stay-home order extended series

Immigration detention centers in Arizona now have eight confirmed cases of the coronavirus, federal officials said Monday.

The Florence Detention Center has six confirmed cases of the coronavirus, up from three last week, according to Immigration and Customs Enforcement.

Two cases were reported in recent weeks at the La Palma Correctional Facility in Eloy.

Three Guatemalan citizens were diagnosed with the coronavirus after they were deported from Arizona on a flight to Guatemala in late March, the Associated Press has reported.

Nationwide, ICE reported 72 confirmed cases of the coronavirus among detainees since the first case was reported on March 24 in New Jersey.

The rising number of coronavirus cases at immigration detention centers has led to protests and lawsuits across the country.

In Eloy, protesters gathered Friday outside detention centers to call for the release of immigrants to spare them the risk of being infected with the coronavirus.

“ICE has the legal authority to release the majority of these detainees right now,” Rachel Wilson, an immigration attorney, said in a news release put out by the protest organizers.

“It’s not an exaggeration to say that these detention centers are death camps,” Wilson said. “It’s important to remember that Anne Frank died during a typhus epidemic at Bergen-Belsen. We can’t turn away from this. It is an absolute catastrophe.”

Federal judges in Pennsylvania, California, Massachusetts, and other states have ordered the release of dozens of immigrants at detention centers in recent weeks to avoid the spread of the virus.

ICE officials say they follow guidelines from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention when an individual is diagnosed with the coronavirus.

“Those who have come in contact with the individuals have been cohorted or are self-isolating and being monitored for symptoms,” according to ICE’s announcement Monday of the new coronavirus cases.

Following Friday’s protest, ICE said in a statement that the agency is “committed to ensuring the welfare of all those in the agency’s custody.”

ICE is reviewing cases where individuals may be vulnerable to the coronavirus, such as those over 60 years old, pregnant women, or other risk factors.

As of March 30, ICE had released 160 people from custody who were identified as vulnerable, according to the statement from ICE.

A lawsuit filed April 1 in federal court in Phoenix described the detention centers as “essentially tinderboxes on the verge of explosion as the global pandemic spreads.”

The lawsuit was filed by the Florence Immigrant and Refugee Rights Project, the ACLU, and the law firm Perkins Coie. They are asking a judge to order the release of eight individuals held at detention centers in Eloy who have medical conditions that could make them vulnerable to the coronavirus.

None of the eight has criminal records.

Four are being held while they ask for asylum, according to the lawsuit.

In other states, immigration detention centers in New Jersey had 16 confirmed cases of the coronavirus, followed by 12 in California, eight in Arizona, seven each in New York and Georgia, and six each in Pennsylvania and Louisiana. ICE reported another three cases in Illinois, two each in Florida and Michigan, and one each in Texas, New Mexico, and Mississippi. Some may have been released already.

ICE reported 19 confirmed cases of the coronavirus among employees at detention centers, but none in Arizona. Another 67 ICE employees who do not work at detention centers also tested positive. ICE did not disclose where they worked.

Contact reporter Curt Prendergast at 573-4224 or cprendergast@tucson.com or on Twitter @CurtTucsonStar

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