A 50-year-old Honduran man who had been in Immigration and Customs Enforcement custody died at a Texas hospital after testing positive for COVID-19, according to a source with knowledge of the death.
The man had been detained at the Joe Corley Processing Center in Conroe, Texas, where, according to agency statistics, 50 people have tested positive for the disease since the beginning of the pandemic.
The preliminary cause of death, according to the source, was respiratory failure due to COVID-19.
The man is the 19th detainee to die in ICE custody during the 2020 fiscal year, which ends on Sept. 30. The total number of ICE deaths so far this fiscal year is the highest total since 2006, when 19 immigrants died, according to ICE records.
Since the beginning of the pandemic, detainees and immigrant advocates have highlighted the health threats posed by the highly contagious disease within ICE custody. The agency has attempted to assure congressional officials and the public that it has carefully examined the issue and has even released certain “vulnerable" detainees. However, advocates said there are inherent problems within the detention facilities, like a lack of necessary space to accommodate proper social distancing guidelines, to safeguard from potentially deadly outbreaks.
Immigration groups and attorneys have used these arguments as a way to push for more releases.
In March, ICE officials began assessing their inmate population to locate “vulnerable” detainees, including those who are over 60 or pregnant. In the spring, the agency reported that they had released more than 900 detainees as a result of this analysis.
As of Aug. 27, more than 800 ICE detainees had tested positive for COVID-19, and more than 5,000 had contracted the disease while in custody.
The number of deaths in ICE custody so far is more than double that of the last fiscal year, despite a significant drop in the immigrant detainee population. Several detainees have died after testing positive for COVID-19.
Last fall, there were more than 55,000 people in ICE custody per day. As of Aug. 1, that number had dropped to about 21,500 per day.