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11 Immigrants In A Detention Center For Families Have Tested Positive For COVID-19

All of the detainees are stable, asymptomatic, and remain housed in medical isolation rooms, an independent monitor reported.

Last updated on June 25, 2020, at 10:17 p.m. ET

Posted on June 25, 2020, at 7:23 p.m. ET

Eric Gay / AP

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Eleven immigrants held inside a detention facility for families in Texas have tested positive for COVID-19, according to court documents made public Thursday.

The immigrant families were being detained at an Immigration and Customs Enforcement center in Karnes City, Texas. The Karnes County Residential Center is one of ICE's three detention centers and is run by GEO Group, a private prison company.

"All detainees are currently stable, asymptomatic, and remain housed in medical isolation rooms, where GEO medical staff continues to monitor for any symptoms," according to an independent monitor tasked with filing reports on how children in family detention centers are treated as part of a long-standing court agreement.

The coronavirus cases follow calls from immigrant advocates and attorneys for ICE to release the families it is holding because of the risk of contracting the disease. In court documents, lawyers said immigrant families inside the facilities face an increased danger of contracting the virus because people are detained in very small environments. They warned COVID-19 would spread like wildfire if it ever made it inside.

GEO Group referred questions about immigrants it detains testing positive for COVID-19 to ICE, but said none of its staff have tested for the disease.

ICE said four families who were new admissions at Karnes County Family Residential Center tested positive for COVID-19. The families have not come in contact with other families at the facility, were asymptomatic, and are in isolation, ICE said.

The immigration enforcement agency said there were 73 immigrants detained at Karnes County Family Residential Center and that voluntary COVID-19 testing was offered June 22 to everyone at the facility. The results of those tests are pending.

While general medical care at the Karnes City facility appeared to be appropriate for immigrant children, the risk of minors and families contracting COVID-19 continued to grow because some staffers failed to wear masks or observe social distancing requirements, said Andrea Ordin, the independent monitor.

"The lack of consistent compliance with recommended masking among some staff and distancing requirements in common eating areas elevate the risk that the virus once introduced into the facility may not be well contained," Ordin said.

Four employees at another ICE detention center for immigrant families, the South Texas Family Residential Center, have tested positive for COVID-19. Two of them worked for CoreCivic, a private prison company paid by the federal government to run the detention center, and the other two were ICE officers.

As of Thursday, no children or parents detained at the Dilley, Texas, ICE facility have tested positive for the coronavirus, court documents stated.

As of Wednesday, ICE reported that 2,521 immigrant detainees had tested positive for the disease out of at least 8,858 who have been tested.

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