The study indicates that COVID-19 infections at the centers could be 15 times as high as ICE has reported.

Por Alma Sacasa
Julio 02, 2020

According to a new study by the Vera Institute of Justice, U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement could be underreporting the number of coronavirus cases at their detention centers. The study simulated a two-month period beginning in mid-March, and estimated that nearly one in five people detained during that time would be infected with COVID-19. That would make the number of COVID-19 cases in detention centers 15 times higher than what ICE has reported.

ICE has reported 752 people currently in custody who have tested positive for the virus, and says those individuals are either in isolation or are being monitored; there are presently 23,429 people in ICE custody.

“They haven’t been transparent, so this is our best attempt at making an educated guess,” said Dennis Kuo, a senior data scientist and the author of Vera's report. The nonprofit, which focuses on criminal justice, used ICE's recent data to look at the number of new detainees and the frequent transfers between detention centers; they also looked at data from fiscal year 2016.

If ICE continues its protocols, 1,744 transfers could be made by the end of the simulation period and 9 percent of the people who are transferred may be actively contagious. “One of the big issues is that ICE is always transferring people in large volume,” said Nina Siulc, director of research at the Vera Institute.

Earlier this week, a federal judge in California ruled that ICE must release migrant children held in detention centers by July 17. "The family residential centers are on fire and there is no more time for half measures," she wrote in her decision.