People have been encouraged to keep their distance from others during these difficult times as the COVID-19 pandemic continues to spread across the US. These precautions have become even more highly advised with the new omicron strain, which spreads more quickly than the original virus. Despite the ever-growing number of cases here in the States, thousands of immigrants are still taken to ICE detention centers, where they are herded into compact cells and easily exposed to the virus. Over the past year, the number of cases has skyrocketed in immigration detention centers by over 800 percent (Sacchetti 2022).
The number of people who have fallen victim to the coronavirus inside the detention centers has grown exponentially. The case numbers were close to 2,100 in May of 2021, but the number has expanded to over 3,000 during the beginning of 2022 (Sacchetti 2022). ICE officials claim that detainees bring in the virus as an overwhelming number of new individuals are forced into close contact with unexposed people. Yet, it has been noted by medical advisors that the rules inside the facility have been lenient on the use of face masks, does not have enough tests at the ready, and lack a proper plan to prevent the constant spread of the virus (Montoya-Galvez 2022).
ICE has stated that they have gotten a better grasp of the situation by increasing the number of vaccines administered since last year while allowing detainees with preexisting medical conditions to be set free from the facilities. According to government records, however, “there were 5,200 immigrants in ICE detention as of late December whose health issues or age placed them at higher risk of getting severely ill or dying […]” (Montoya Galvez 2022). Another cause of the massive spread of the virus within these detention centers is the lack of education provided to the immigrants regarding immunizations. Records unpublished by ICE say that around 37 percent of detainees refuse the vaccine. Dr. Scott Allen, a medical expert for the Department of Homeland Security’s Office of Civil Rights and Civil Liberties, advises that it is crucial to have vaccines available to the detainees, “but it must be coupled with effective education and counseling to overcome skepticism and confusion regarding COVID and vaccinations[.]” (Montoya-Galvez 2022).
Montoya-Galvez, Camilo. “Coronavirus Infections Inside U.S. Immigration Detention Centers Surge by 520% in 2022.” CBS News, 14 January 2022, https://www.cbsnews.com/news/immigration-detention-covid-cases-surge/
Sacchetti, Maria. “Covid Infections Surge in Immigration Detention Facilities.” The Washington Post, 1 February, 2022,
NOTE: The opinions expressed in this blog are the opinions of the author only. It is not to be assumed that the opinions are those of GALEO or the GALEO Latino Community Development Fund. For the official position on any issue for GALEO, please contact Jerry Gonzalez, CEO of GALEO at firstname.lastname@example.org.