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Investigation requested into COVID-19 outbreak at ICE detention center in Adams County

Source: WLBT-TV
Source: WLBT-TV(WTOK)
Updated: Jun. 12, 2021 at 11:54 AM CDT
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NATCHEZ, Miss. (WLOX) - With one of the worst COVID-19 outbreaks among the nation’s Immigration and Customs Enforcement detention centers, advocates and one of Mississippi’s congressmen are demanding change at Adams County Detention Center.

Right now, the facility has 636 total confirmed COVID-19 cases and 36 cases currently being monitored, according to the most recent data.

A representative with the New Orleans Field Office, which oversees the center, said the rise in cases is a result of new arrivals of immigrants arriving at the facility.

“It’s important to note that the population at Adams County has also greatly increased in recent weeks,” a statement from the field office said. “The Adams County current average daily population for May is 1,099. In comparison, the ADP at Adams County for December was 267.”

The case count has caused concern among activists and Rep. Bennie Thompson, who is also the chairman of the House Committee on Homeland Security.

In a letter to Katherine Culliton-Gonzalez, officer for Civil Rights & Civil Liberties for the Department of Homeland Security, Thompson requests an “expeditious and thorough investigation,” into alleged ICE COVID-19 Pandemic Response violations at the detention center.

This comes after 15 immigrants rights groups filed a civil complaint against the facility for health policy violations. One of those organizations is the Mississippi Center for Justice, which immigration attorney Max Meyers works for.

“We are hoping that this will bring about real change in the detention centers,” Meyers said. “The Department of Homeland Security is the executive agency that oversees ICE, and they have the authority to receive this complaint and look over the allegations. They can make changes unilaterally.”

In a statement, a representative with the New Orleans Field Office said ICE and on-site medical professionals continue to take steps to isolate exposed detainees and provide proper medical care to prevent the spread of the virus.

However, the formal complaint claims that detainees at the facility live in close quarters and aren’t given access to basic necessities like soap.

“This is something that is not necessary,” Meyers said. “This is a situation that has been created by not dedicating enough time and resources to figuring out the solutions. There is no reason why 15 months into a pandemic that we’ve all become very familiar with, that we’re seeing this kind of an outbreak.”

As of now, ICE is dealing with 685 COVID-19 cases in isolation, nine deaths and 16,816 total cases.

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