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A Federal District Judge in California ordered rapid testing of detainees at an ICE detention center following an outbreak. (Photo: Erik McGregor/Pacific Press/LightRocket via Getty Images)

Saying ICE Has 'Lost the Right to Be Trusted,' Federal Judge Orders Mandatory Testing at Detention Center Hit by Covid-19

Court order follows an outbreak at the Mesa Verde Detention Center and evidence that officials opted not to test detainees for fear of positive test results.

Lisa Newcomb

A federal judge on Thursday ordered the Immigration and Customs Enforcement Agency (ICE) to find and implement rapid on-site testing following an outbreak that hospitalized two detainees and infected at least seven others at a California detention facility.

U.S. District Court Judge Vince Chhabria also ordered ICE not to take in any new detainees at the Mesa Verde Detention Facility, where the outbreak occurred, and the implementation of a dorm set up for Covid-19 positive detainees. In the ruling, Chhabria noted the brazen email correspondence between ICE officials and GEO Group, Inc., the private for-profit company that manages the facility and that appeared to show blatant disregard for the health and safety of detainees.

"The defendants, having responded to the health crisis in such a cavalier fashion (even in the face of litigation and a string of court orders), have lost the credibility to complain that the relief requested by the plaintiffs is too rigid or burdensome," Chhabria wrote in the ruling. "The defendants have also lost the right to be trusted that they will accomplish on their own what the plaintiffs contend requires a court order to ensure." 

The ruling comes as activists and health advocates continue to push for the release of detainees in light of the Covid-19 pandemic, which has wreaked havoc on residential living facilities, prisons and detention centers throughout the country.

"ICE continues to demonstrate its failure to act to prevent a [Covid-19] crisis, which has devastating consequences to those in its custody," San Francisco’s Public Defender Manohar Raju said Thursday. "This is particularly unconscionable as Mesa Verde is currently facing an entirely preventable [Covid-19] outbreak."

According to The Washington Post, Roughly 4,000 people in ICE facilities have tested positive for Covid-19 since it began.


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