This past March, Marisol Mendoza sued for release from Arizona’s Eloy Detention Center as the novel coronavirus pandemic was hitting Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) facilities, pleading that her medical condition made her particularly vulnerable to risk should she get sick. “Instead, in a 19 May ruling, a federal judge ordered ICE to improve her conditions and make them constitutional,” The Guardian reports.
But remember, this is ICE, an agency that has shown intentional disregard for both immigrants and the law. Mendoza has now tested positive for COVID-19. Due to the agency not fully following the court order, she is one of the over 120 immigrants currently sick at Eloy. “Ms Mendoza is no longer at risk of infection,” her attorney Matthew Green told The Guardian. “She now fears something much greater. She fears the risk of imminent death.”
The Guardian reports that the judge’s May ruling ordered ICE officials to give her space to social distance, and to wear masks around her. But as other immigrants have already said, social distancing while in detention is impossible, and in the immediate period after the judge’s order, Mendoza said she counted at least four times when staff were unmasked around her. “She also asserts that other detainees routinely did not wear masks.”
Mendoza began to feel sick on June 5, and was tested for COVID-19 the next day. You’d think that ICE would at least now have released her to any of her three U.S. citizen daughters for care, but she’s remained detained in isolation since, The Guardian reported. “She said she can barely see outside her door, but she can hear the coughs of the other 11 women with Covid-19 nearby. It’s very cold in her cell, she said. Nurses check her temperature twice a day and the doctor comes maybe every three days.”
Even though the court agreed that ICE had failed to fully protect her after the 47-year-old Mexican immigrant’s advocates returned to court last week to try to win an emergency release, the judge refused to release her, instead ordering ICE to more frequently monitor her condition. “If ICE failed to follow his order by Wednesday, Mendoza should be transferred to the care of her daughter Leslie Rosales, a certified medical assistant,” the report said.
But it shouldn’t take immigrants getting worse to secure their release from inhumane conditions at places like Eloy. Just yesterday, we wrote about the fact that this facility has seen such a huge surge in positive COVID-19 cases that it accounted for nearly half of new positive results among facilities nationally. “On June 11, U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement reported 22 positive cases of COVID-19 at the Eloy Detention Center in Pinal County,” AZ Mirror’s Laura Gómez reported. “Four days later, that number jumped 460% to 123 confirmed cases, ICE reported Monday.”
AZ Mirror reported that among the detained people in fear at the for-profit CoreCivic facility is Shakira Najera Chilel, a transgender asylum-seeker who has been held there since September and has not received the medical attention she needs. “The prospect of the COVID-19 pandemic spreading in the ICE detention center where she thinks the wellbeing of her and others is overlooked adds to her worries,” the report said.
“ICE has proven itself incapable of protecting the people in its custody, routinely ignoring CDC guidelines and ICE’s own Pandemic Response Requirements,” House Democrats slammed in a recent letter. That intentional cruelty is now risking the lives of people like Chilel and Mendoza. “She got sick because of the inability of the Department of Homeland Security to take her seriously and to protect her,” Green said to The Guardian.
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