ICE announced Thursday that it has tested for the coronavirus at all of its family detention facilities, as the agency tries to figure out how to combat the pandemic while facing a judge itching to force releases.
All told, 278 people were tested across three facilities, including the existing population and new arrivals.
None of those in the general population tested positive, though 14 people tested at intake at the facility in Karnes, Texas, have tested positive and 40 more tests from new intakes are still outstanding.
“As we planned where to expand ICE’s testing capabilities, the family residential centers were identified as a priority because of the unique population we house at these facilities,” said Henry Lucero, head of the detention and deportation division at U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement.
New detainees are kept segregated and quarantined to prevent them from introducing the disease.
ICE is eyeing universal testing at all of its facilities, and had previously offered testing at facilities in Colorado and Washington state.
Community settings are considered to be danger spots for spread of COVID-19, the respiratory disease caused by the novel coronavirus, with social distancing difficult to achieve.
The agency has cut the number of migrants it’s holding to about half the level it was at last year, but some judges are pushing to go further.
U.S. District Judge Dolly M. Gee last week found that whatever steps ICE has taken, children are still at risk of contracting the disease and must be released.
How ICE achieves that, though, remains to be seen. It could offer parents a choice of releasing the children to a sponsor or having the entire family be deported. Immigrant-rights activists say they instead want to see the entire families released.