More ICE detainees test positive for COVID-19

The main entrance to the Port Isabel Detention Center on Sunday, June 24, 2018. Port Isabel is about 20 miles northwest of Brownsville. Reynaldo Leal for The Texas Tribune

The number of U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement detainees in local detention centers who have tested positive for COVID-19 is on the rise.

To date, 101 detainees have tested positive for COVID-19 inside the Port Isabel Detention Center in Los Fresnos. Nine of those detainees were under isolation or monitoring, according to the latest information from ICE.

At the El Valle Detention Facility in Raymondville, four detainees had tested positive and were under isolation or monitoring.

Steven, a 35-year-old Ugandan pastor with severe diabetes reported from detention on Wednesday that he likely already had COVID-19, reducing his white blood cell count to dangerously low levels.

Steven sought asylum legally in December 2018 after fleeing persecution for his political activism, his attorneys have said. The same immigration judge who granted one of his supporters asylum denied Steven’s case.

His petition for review at the Fifth Circuit is pending. There is also a motion to reopen his asylum case at the Board of Immigration Appeals and motion for stay, and BIA has ruled on neither one.

ICE has filed a motion to dismiss Steven’s federal habeas case seeking his release due to inadequate medical care and extreme risk of serious illness if he were to get sick, for which one of his attorneys is working on a response.

The agency was ordered in April by a federal judge in California to “identify and track” detainees at risk of complications and serious illness from COVID-19, as well as to consider those detainees for discretionary release on bond.

Steven is pending removal to Uganda, where an official in touch with his team of three attorneys has confirmed that he’ll more than likely be kidnapped and murdered before he makes it out of the airport in his home country.

Steven on Wednesday expressed fear over the situation for all detainees still inside the facility, as well as for his own health. He explained, “The doctors say I have no immunity at all, so I can’t fight any simple infection, which puts me at risk of losing my life with any infection or disease.”