As restrictions loosen up around the country, the coronavirus is very much among us. For many detainees, there’s no escaping that a fatal disease is lurking around every corner, and a new report shows that it is the most vulnerable people inside that are dealing with it head-on.
Undocumented immigrants inside detention centers are overwhelmingly enduring the ramifications of the deadly virus. As cities around the country from Arizona, California, and Michigan report spikes of COVID-19 cases, inside the detention centers, it is no different. The main concern is that detainees are forced to clean the facilities diligently without personal protective equipment (PPE).
In Arizona, 70 migrants drafted a letter about the harsh conditions at the La Palma ICE facility, saying that it is “a life or death situation.” According to the letter, the detainees have to clean areas without proper PPE where infected people were treated, including the nurse’s area. Another said he was forced to wipe “feces-covered cell of a mentally ill detainee without gloves.”
Aside from the unsanitary conditions, detainees say they are forced to endure abuse from the workers, expired food, and said being in that detention center is like a concentration camp.
“Our clients have told us over, and over again it’s impossible to practice social distancing in detention,” Laura Belous, an advocacy attorney with the Florence Project that filed a lawsuit along with the ACLU, the ACLU of Arizona and the law firm Perkins Coie, told NBC News. “It’s impossible to maintain that six feet of distance when the telephone you’re sitting on to talk to your lawyer is one to three feet from the other guy on the phone. When you’re in communal showers. When 40 to 50 guys are touching the same door. That disease is going to spread like wildfire. And the fact is, it has.”
Another report, this time out of California, detainees say the toxic cleaning supplies are so severe that it causes skin burns and severe eye damage when inhaled. And because there’s poor ventilation, the fumes remain in the area for an extended period of time, even more so because it is continuously being used throughout the day.
“The guards have started spraying this chemical everywhere, all over everything, all the time. It causes a terrible reaction on our skin,” one inmate said, according to the Business Insider. “When I blow my nose, blood comes out. They are treating us like animals. One person fainted and was taken out, I don’t know what happened to them. There is no fresh air.”