An illegal immigrant being detained by ICE in New Jersey tested positive for COVID-19, the agency announced Tuesday, forcing a suspension of new detainees at the Bergen County Jail.
Officials did not say how the 31-year-old Mexican was infected, nor did it reveal any other details of the particular case, other than to say the person has been quarantined and is receiving medical care.
“Consistent with CDC guidelines, those who have come in contact with the individual have been cohorted and are being monitored for symptoms. ICE is suspending intake at the facility until further information is available,” the agency said.
The detainee was being held by ICE at the Bergen County Jail in Hackensack, New Jersey.
Immigrant-rights activists have been warning of potential fast spread of coronavirus in ICE detention facilities, and have pleaded with the government to release many illegal immigrants to prevent them from contracting COVID-19.
The agency has declined, saying it has plenty of experience dealing with detainees with infectious diseases.
Several immigrant-rights groups had asked a federal court to order detainees released from a facility in Tacoma, Washington, near the Seattle epicenter of one of the outbreaks. The judge rejected that emergency request, though he said he could revisit the the question should new evidence arise.
After Tuesday’s confirmation of a case in the New Jersey facility, the American Civil Liberties Union said it was time for ICE to release people.
“People in detention centers are sitting ducks for the spread of this virus,” said Andrea Flores at the ACLU. “ICE must take immediate and drastic steps to reduce the number of people in detention. If it doesn’t, it will be to blame for a humanitarian crisis.”
Just before the New Jersey case was announced, the ACLU sued to demand release of at-risk detainees from an ICE facility in Worcester, Maryland.
The ACLU said that facility was under quarantine because of COVID-19 exposure.