Since the beginning of the pandemic, inmates, their attorneys and attorneys have warned that it is only a matter of time before widespread COVID-19 outbreaks occur in detention centers. Your fears have now become a reality. There have been COVID-19 outbreaks in detention centers across the country, and nine immigrants have died of the virus in federal immigration custody. According to Allison Herre, executive attorney for Proyecto Dilley, a project that provides free legal services to families incarcerated in Dilley, eight people in Dilley, including parents and children, have tested positive, including an eight-year-old child. The attorney stated that the establishment of the family prison makes it a prime place for the virus to spread, with families in close proximity. Dilley has different "neighborhoods," Herre told Prism, and each neighborhood has four hallways that house 10 dorm areas that are crowded with families.
An estimated 70 families are currently detained in Dilley, where children are between 1 and 17 years old. The eight-year-old boy who tested positive last week has been showing symptoms "for days," Herre said.
"His parents took him to the medical staff and the medical staff said it was 'just a cold' and they made the recommendation that they always give, no matter how serious the illness is, drink more water," Herre said. “It took a few days to get tested, and before he was tested, he was hanging out with other children, playing in the playground and visiting other families. As a result, the families at the facility are now in quarantine. "
The quarantine poses major challenges for asylum-seeking families in detention. Not only are they further isolated, but they are also given medical care in medical prisons notoriously negligent and Herre said she was concerned that families could develop severe symptoms, which could result in critically ill parents remaining completely isolated in dormitories while caring for their child.
The quarantine also makes it difficult for legal service providers to communicate with their clients. During the pandemic, lawyers have provided legal services remotely, but now that families can only leave their dormitories to use the bathroom, gentlemen and others are struggling to reach their clients. According to the lawyer, cell phones must be quarantined with parents by guards employed by CoreCivic, the private prison company Immigration and Customs Enforcement, in order to operate the facility. Speaking to Prism Monday night, Herre said the lawyers were still trying to reach the parents by phone and that each appointment was delayed by at least two and a half hours. On Tuesday, several families stood in front of hers credible fear interviews This shows that their eligibility for asylum and, without legal guidance, their chances of staying in the United States are severely affected – and the Trump administration has already gone to great lengths to get Block asylum during the pandemic.
By and large, the Trump administration has created "huge, impenetrable barriers" for immigrant families denied their "legitimate asylum rights" with guidelines that have since blocked federal courts, said Bridget Cambria, co-founder and executive director of Aldea -The People's Justice Center, an organization that provides free legal services to families incarcerated in Berks. During the November 18 media call, Cambria cited the asylum transit ban as an example. The ban required immigrants to seek refuge in another country through which they had traveled before seeking refuge in the United States. In other words, the transit ban banned immigrants from seeking asylum in the United States if they were traveling through other countries prior to their arrival unless they made certain restrictive exemptions. In June, a U.S. district judge lifted the transit ban, and the rule was lifted and no longer in effect. In July, the 9th Court of Appeals blocked the rule as well, despite the fact that it had already been applied to thousands of asylum seekers, Adolfo Flores of BuzzFeed, by that time reported– including the 28 children who have to be deported after long periods of detention.
Even before the families in Dilley, where eight-year-old Antonio is imprisoned, tested positive for COVID-19, it was clear that his lengthy incarceration was weighing on him. The long-term effects of incarceration on children are well documented and include post-traumatic stress disorder, anxiety, depression, thoughts of suicide, and other mental health problems. When he left the media call on November 18, Antonio asked if he could "say something else" to reporters on the call.
“Please help us get out of here. All of us who are detained here can no longer take it, ”said Antonio. "I ask a favor, please help us get out of here. The truth is, I don't want to spend another Christmas in this detention center. I want to spend it with my family and father outside of this detention center."
Tina Vasquez is a senior reporter for Prisma. She deals with gender equality, labor rights and immigration. Follow her on Twitter @TheTinaVasquez.
Prism is a nonprofit news agency run by BIPOC that puts the spotlight on the people, places and topics that our national media currently does not cover. Through our original reporting, analysis and commentary, we challenge dominant, toxic narratives that are immortalized by the mainstream press, and work to create a complete and accurate record of what is happening in our democracy. Follow us on Twitter, Facebook and Instagram.