18 May Hundreds of Mississippi Immigrants Endangered in Adams County Detention Center COVID Outbreak
Demand for release of immigrants in the face of “completely preventable public health crisis”
NATCHEZ, Miss. – A catastrophic COVID-19 outbreak at the Adams County Detention Center (ACDC) in Natchez, Miss., is recklessly endangering the lives of hundreds of people, says a new Civil Rights and Civil Liberties (CRCL) complaint filed today by immigrant rights organizations with the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) Office of Civil Rights and Civil Liberties (CRCL) and Office of the Inspector General (OIG).
“The Adams County Detention Center is not equipped to handle COVID-19 or protect us from contracting the virus,” said Khurtlyn Chin, a man recently transferred from ACDC. “Officials have been lying and covering up the fact that there’s always an outbreak plaguing the facility due to their financial greed and constant transferring of new people there. This facility should be shut down and all of us should be released to our family and loved ones on the outside.”
On May 12, ICE reported more than 350 cases of COVID-19 at ACDC, making it the largest outbreak at any ICE facility in the country at the time. Despite maintaining the authority to release immigrants from the prison at any time, Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) has created the emerging public health disaster by shifting the detention center to a short-term processing facility where people are rapidly transferred in and out of the prison and then relocated throughout the entire region.
“ICE is knowingly spreading COVID-19 through facility transfers and even abroad with continued deportations,” said Lorena Quiroz, Director of the Immigrant Alliance for Justice and Equity. “Nearly 15 months into the pandemic, it’s clear that this agency’s callous indifference toward the well-being of the Black and Brown immigrants under its custody is needlessly causing infections and deaths.”
The outbreak at ACDC comes amidst a staggering spike in COVID-19 cases in ICE facilities across the country. The detention population dramatically increased by nearly 3,000 in the past several weeks, and current case numbers reflect an infection rate of 12 percent. At least nine people have died of COVID-19 after being infected in ICE facilities, where those on the inside report it’s impossible to practice social distancing.
ICE holds large numbers of people in cramped settings at ACDC and fails to provide basic health necessities like consistent access to soap, according to the complaint.
“The Biden-Harris administration is endangering the lives of thousands of immigrants every day it chooses to hold people in its shameful network of immigrant prisons,” Amelia McGowan, Director of Immigration Law at the Mississippi Center for Justice. “The call has never been more clear or more urgent: The administration must heed the calls of immigrants in detention, the calls of public health experts and epidemiologists, the calls of communities and advocates and free every last person from ICE detention.”
The advocates urge CRCL and the Office of the Inspector General to immediately investigate the violations of the ICE Pandemic Response Requirements and recommend the halt of interfacility transfers into and out of ACDC, the closure of ACDC, and the use of ICE’s parole power to release those inside so that they can safely quarantine with their families.
The complaint was filed by the Immigrant Alliance for Justice and Equity, Mississippi Immigrants Rights Alliance, El Pueblo, American Civil Liberties Union of Mississippi, Roderick and Solange MacArthur Justice Center, Mississippi Center for Justice, Mid-South Immigration Advocates, Home is Here NOLA, Immigration Services and Legal Advocacy, Louisiana Advocates for Immigrants in Detention, Freedom for Immigrants, Al Otro Lado, National Immigration Project of the National Lawyers Guild, Center for Constitutional Rights, and the Southern Poverty Law Center.