Four Gay, HIV-Positive Men Released From ICE Custody Amid Coronavirus Pandemic

Advocates have warned that the unsanitary and crowded conditions at detention centers creates a breeding ground for COVID-19.

Above: A group in a car caravan demonstrate to increase the pressure on ICE to release GEO detainees in front of GEO Aurora ICE Processing Center in Aurora, Colorado.

Four gay, HIV-positive men have been released from U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) custody, according to nonprofit organization Immigration Equality.

The group released a video on April 10 announcing the news that its clients had been freed from detention: three that week and one the week before. Two of those men had been in ICE custody at the Richwood Correctional Center in Monroe, Louisiana. Another was at the Winn Correctional Center in Winnfield, Louisiana, and the fourth had been held at La Palma Correctional Center in Eloy, Arizona, according to the Washington Blade.

Glen Stubbe/Star Tribune via Getty Images

St Paul, MN March 27: Activists who stayed mostly in their cars for social distancing, lined Summit Ave, honking horns outside the Governor's Residence in St Paul. The were calling for the release of high risk prisoners and ICE detainees from MN facilities to lower the chances of infection. (Photo by Glen Stubbe/Star Tribune via Getty Images)

Protesters demand the release of detainees in ICE custody during a demonstration at the Governor's Residence in St Paul, Minnesota.

As Immigration Equality Legal Director Bridget Crawford explained in the video (below) the men were "persecuted in their countries of origin simply for being who they are."

"Unfortunately, when they sought safety in the United States they were put in detention centers where they received horrendous HIV care, and lived in deplorable conditions and with the outbreak of COVID our clients’ lives were placed in great danger," Crawford continued. She added that she was "shocked to learn that some of our clients hadn't even been told about COVID, or the ways to protect themselves."

"Even in the best of times these facilities are highly unsanitary with little access to adequate handwashing stations, soap. Social distancing is virtually impossible, so when you add COVID to the mix it is a tinder box for spread of the virus."

Last month, Immigration Equality filed a federal complaint against ICE for "grossly negligent medical care and grave risk to their lives due to the COVID-19 pandemic." The four men ICE released are among the six the group named as complainants.

ICE says on its website that there have been 72 confirmed cases of COVID-19 among those in ICE custody. Two of those detainees tested positive while at La Palma Correctional Center, another at Winn Correctional Center, and yet another at Richwood Correctional Center.

ICE also reports 19 confirmed cases of COVID-19 among ICE employees working in ICE detention facilities, and another 72 confirmed cases among ICE employees not assigned to detention facilities.

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