Skip to main content

LATEST UPDATES: Tracking COVID-19 | Vaccines | Racial Injustice

6 Detainees, 5 Employees Test Positive For Coronavirus At Otay Mesa Detention Center

The sign at the entrance to the Otay Mesa Immigration and Detention Facility ...

Photo by Katie Schoolov

Above: The sign at the entrance to the Otay Mesa Immigration and Detention Facility is pictured in San Diego, June 22, 2018.

In a federal filing on Monday, the government confirmed the Otay Mesa Detention Center, which houses both immigration and federal pretrial detainees, has seen its confirmed coronavirus cases balloon to six people. As of last week, there had been no confirmed cases.

Advocates have faulted CoreCivic, the company that runs the center, for not adequately protecting detainees against the spread of the virus, and letting employees spread the infection among the detainee population.

On Tuesday CoreCivic told KPBS that three more employees had tested positive for COVID-19, bringing the total number of infected employees to five.

The last shifts for these employees were between April 1 and April 4 and one of the employees is now hospitalized.

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

Reported by Max Rivlin-Nadler , Video by Matthew Bowler

"Every day there’s more sick people, because the virus is here, that’s the truth. But they don’t tell them the truth. They tell them not to worry," Oliver, a detainee from Honduras at Otay Mesa, told KPBS. He doesn't want his last name used because of his ongoing asylum claim. He says his unit was placed in quarantine last week. And that guards have misled the detainees about the danger they're in.

His lawyer, Dorien Ediger-Seto, with the National Immigrant Justice Center, says that as of this morning, an official at Otay Mesa Detention Center told her that four units are now under quarantine.

"As advocates and as people in detention have predicted, the virus was brought into detention likely by somebody who was going in and out of the facility and it’s spreading like wildfire throughout the pods," Ediger-Seto told KPBS. "My client is incredibly worried, and his family is worried about his safety."

Some detainees in federal criminal and immigration custody in San Diego have launched hunger strikes to draw attention to the severity of the situation inside the facilities.

"The measures that the facility took to control the disease came far too late, and really the facility is not designed to manage any sort of infectious disease outbreak like the one they’re seeing," Ediger-Seto said.

Last Friday, the American Civil Liberties Union of San Diego and Imperial Counties filed a lawsuit against the government, trying to secure the release of detainees who are especially vulnerable to COVID-19. Similar lawsuits across the country have had mixed success in securing the release of civil immigration detainees during the pandemic.

Listen to this story by Max Rivlin-Nadler.


San Diego News Now podcast branding

San Diego news; when you want it, where you want it. Get local stories on politics, education, health, environment, the border and more. New episodes are ready weekday mornings. Hosted by Anica Colbert and produced by KPBS, San Diego and the Imperial County's NPR and PBS station.

  • Need help keeping up with the news that matters most? Get the day's top news — ranging from local to international — straight to your inbox each weekday morning.

This site is protected by reCAPTCHA and the Google Privacy Policy and Terms of Service apply.

Want more KPBS news?
Find us on Twitter and Facebook, or sign up for our newsletters.

To view PDF documents, Download Acrobat Reader.