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Border & Immigration

Employee At Detention Center Tests Positive for COVID-19, As Fears Of Outbreak Grow

A vehicle drives into the Otay Mesa detention center in San Diego, Calif., June 9, 2017.
Associated Press
A vehicle drives into the Otay Mesa detention center in San Diego, Calif., June 9, 2017.

On Tuesday, the company CoreCivic, which runs the Otay Mesa Detention Center, confirmed that one of its employees had tested positive for COVID-19. The detention center houses immigration and other federal detainees.

The company told KPBS that the employee's last shift at the facility was March 21 and that they had no known contact with the detainee population. NBC 7 San Diego has reported that the employee was in charge of distributing equipment to other employees.

But immigrant advocates are alarmed at what they see as the beginning of a larger possible outbreak at a facility that they believe has not taken enough precautions to protect its detainees and staff.

RELATED: Immigration Detention Facilities Could Become Coronavirus Hot Spots

Video: Employee At Otay Mesa Immigrant Detention Center Tests Positive For COVID-19

"It’s really just a tinderbox. Once you get one person going into the facility, it’s unrealistic to say it’s not going to spread and people aren’t going to die," said Andrew Nietor, an immigration attorney who works with detainees held in Otay Mesa.

Immigrant advocates have called on ICE to release as many immigration detainees as possible to be with their families and to have them return to court when it’s safer to do so.

"Now is not the time to be worried about court backlogs and quotas. Now is a time to be worried about people living and dying. That has to be the focus," Nietor told KPBS.

Meanwhile, immigration courts at Otay Mesa have mostly remained open during the pandemic.

One group of immigration detainees at CoreCivic is currently under quarantine, according to the U.S. Marshal’s Service.

Employee At Detention Center Tests Positive for COVID-19, As Fears Of Outbreak Grow
Listen to this story by Max Rivlin-Nadler.