April 13, 2020 at 1:10 pm EDT | by Michael K. Lavers
Four gay men with HIV released from ICE custody

Immigration Equality says U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement has released four of its gay clients with HIV.

Two of the men had been in ICE custody at the Richwood Correctional Center in Monroe, La. The other two men were detained at the Winn Correctional Center in Winnfield, La., and La Palma Correctional Center in Eloy, Ariz.

LaSalle Corrections operates the Richwood and Winn Correctional Centers. CoreCivic, a company previously known as Corrections Corporation of America, runs La Palma Correctional Center.

“All four of these clients are gay men living with HIV who had been persecuted in their countries of origin simply for being who they are,” said Immigration Equality Legal Director Bridget Crawford on April 10 in a YouTube video. “Unfortunately, when they sought safety in the United States they were put in detention centers where they received horrendous HIV care, and lived in deplorable conditions and with the outbreak of COVID our clients’ lives were placed in great danger.”

Immigration Equality on March 23 demanded ICE release detainees with HIV who are at increased risk for the coronavirus. The four men who ICE released are among the six men who Immigration Equality named as complainants in the complaint it filed with the Department of Homeland Security’s Office for Civil Rights and Civil Liberties.

Crawford in her video said some of Immigration Equality’s clients in ICE custody “hadn’t even been told about COVID or the ways to protect themselves.”  

“Even in the best of times these facilities are highly unsanitary with little access to adequate handwashing stations, soap,” said Crawford. “Social distancing is virtually impossible, so when you add COVID to the mix it is a tinder box for spread of the virus.”

“Needless to say, we needed to jump into action to secure the safety of our clients,” added Crawford.

ICE on its website says there are 61 detainees with coronavirus.

Two of these detainees are at La Palma Correctional Center. One detainee at Winn Correctional Center has coronavirus, and another at Richwood Correctional Center has tested positive.

These statistics were last updated at 5:35 p.m. on April 10.

“The health, welfare and safety of U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) detainees is one of the agency’s highest priorities,” says ICE in a statement it posted to its website on March 15. “Since the onset of reports of Coronavirus Disease 2019 (COVID-19), ICE epidemiologists have been tracking the outbreak, regularly updating infection prevention and control protocols, and issuing guidance to ICE Health Service Corps (IHSC) staff for the screening and management of potential exposure among detainees.”

“ICE continues to incorporate CDC’s COVID-19 guidance, which is built upon the already established infectious disease monitoring and management protocols currently in use by the agency,” adds the statement. “In addition, ICE is actively working with state and local health partners to determine if any detainee requires additional testing or monitoring to combat the spread of the virus.”

ICE has also suspended “social visitations” at all of its detention centers.

Michael K. Lavers is the international news editor of the Washington Blade. Follow Michael

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