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

Immigrant Advocates Try To Deliver Masks To Otay Mesa Detention Center

Assemblywoman Lorena Gonzalez tries to deliver a box of masks to Otay Mesa De...

Photo by Max Rivlin-Nadler

Above: Assemblywoman Lorena Gonzalez tries to deliver a box of masks to Otay Mesa Detention Center on Friday, April 24, 2020.

UPDATE: 10:15 a.m., April 25, 2020:

Immigration and Customs Enforcement has now responded to KPBS's request for comment. In an email, an ICE spokesperson wrote:

All detainees at OMDC have the appropriate personal protective equipment for maintaining their safety while detained in ICE custody. U. S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) acknowledges offers of donated personal protective equipment and we are looking into our ability to accept and use these donated face coverings. We are also currently reviewing the appropriate procedures to ensure any donated equipment provides the appropriate level of protection and adds to the safety, health and wellbeing of those in ICE custody.

Original Story:

The Otay Mesa Detention Center is now home to the largest coronavirus outbreak in immigration detention in the country.

Fifty-seven Immigration and Customs Enforcement detainees are positive for coronavirus. So are 37 detainees in US Marshal’s custody, and 18 employees of CoreCivic, the company that runs the detention facility.

For weeks, as conditions worsened, detainees raised the alarm about a lack of medical equipment, such as masks, or their ability to maintain social distance.

On Friday, immigrant rights organizations teamed up with medical professionals to deliver 1,000 face masks to the detention center. But their donation was met with silence from CoreCivic, which declined to accept the masks.

RELATED: Immigration Detainees Launch Hunger Strike As Outbreak Grows At Otay Mesa Detention Center

Reported by Max Rivlin-Nadler , Video by Matthew Bowler

Assemblywoman Lorena Gonzalez, who helped deliver the masks, spoke beforehand about how the outbreak at the detention center sets back any efforts to lower the toll of coronavirus in the county.

“This is the biggest hotspot in the county, possibly in the state,” she said. “And what we know is that if there were over 100 people infected with coronavirus in any other setting, if it was a nursing home, a hospital, they’d be demanding to shut it down.”

Gonzalez, joined by the partner of a man detained in Otay Mesa, tried to deliver the masks, but they were turned back by CoreCivic security. They were told they could leave them outside but were given no indication over whether the masks would be accepted or used.

At least 12 detainees are currently on hunger strike to protest the lack of health precautions in the facility. They say they’re being moved around the facility without any regard to mixing different populations and possibly spreading the disease

CoreCivic directed all requests for comment to ICE, who has yet to respond.

Listen to this story by Max Rivlin-Nadler.


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