ICE CONFIRMS MEDICAL PROVIDER AT MESA VERDE DETENTION CENTER TESTS POSITIVE FOR COVID-19, EXPOSING ITS CONTINUED FAILURE TO PROTECT HEALTH DURING PANDEMIC
SAN FRANCISCO – On June 19, 2020, government lawyers disclosed that a medical provider at the Mesa Verde Detention Center in Bakersfield, CA, tested positive for COVID-19. The disclosure came at a hearing in connection with a class action lawsuit challenging conditions of confinement in ICE detention facilities during COVID-19. Federal District Court Judge Vince Chhabria ordered ICE to present by Monday at 5pm what ICE has done and will do in response.
“Today, ICE dropped the bombshell news that a medical provider at its privately run detention center in Bakersfield tested positive for COVID-19. It is incomprehensible that, amidst a global pandemic, ICE has failed to take even the most minimal steps to ensure access to testing,” said Emi MacLean, an attorney in the San Francisco Public Defender’s Office. “It is outrageous that ICE is doing virtually nothing to protect people from the threat of COVID-19 despite the extraordinary risks the pandemic poses for people in detention. There are no excuses. ICE detention in this context is unconscionable.”
Despite being several months into the pandemic, ICE has not mandated testing in its facilities, and has tested no staff or detainees at the Mesa Verde Detention Center. ICE reported that the medical provider in question obtained a test independently. ICE did not disclose any measures it was taking to ensure the health and safety of its other staff and the people in ICE custody.
“Enough is enough. We demand accountability. We also join with key leaders and organizations throughout California to insist that the state launch an independent investigation into the practices of GEO and ICE during this pandemic, which have put lives at risk,” says Francisco Ugarte, Manager of the Immigration Defense Unit at the SF Public Defender’s Office.