ULLIN — U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement confirmed that the three detainees at the Pulaski County Detention Center that have been diagnosed with COVID-19 are in the agency’s custody.
A 26-year-old Guatemalan national, a 33-year-old Honduran national, and a 32-year-old Mexican national in ICE custody at the detention center tested positive last week; those who have come in contact with these individuals have been “cohorted” and are being monitored for symptoms, an ICE official told The Southern in an emailed response to questions. The practice of cohorting refers to quarantining multiple people together as a group.
The Southern Seven Health Department reported Thursday that three individuals housed at the facility were recovering in isolation. Health department and county officials declined to say whether they were ICE detainees or jail inmates. The 240-bed Pulaski County Detention Center, overseen by the Pulaski County Sheriff's Office, serves as a jail for Pulaski and Alexander counties, and also has a contract with ICE to house people accused of being in the country illegally. ICE detainees are held on civil violations of immigration law, not criminal charges.
Last week, the jail’s administrator, Damon Acuff, said that the facility is housing about 145 people, and roughly 130 of them are ICE detainees. Acuff said the individuals at the facility with confirmed COVID-19 diagnoses had recently arrived at the facility “and they were actually housed by themselves.”
Acuff also said Thursday that one correctional officer had contracted COVID-19. These four cases reported last week, all on Thursday, were the first to be confirmed in Pulaski County. Over the weekend, the health department reported that a woman in her 40s from Pulaski County had also tested positive. The health department did not say whether she was associated with the detention center, and neither Acuff nor Pulaski County Sheriff Randy Kern could be reached for comment on Monday.
Acuff previously said that the individuals had only recently arrived at the facility, but declined to provide any other details. Other Pulaski County officials said the individuals had been recently transferred to the facility from other out-of-state ICE detention centers.
ICE did not answer specific questions The Southern asked about the reason for the transfer, but an official said that, in general, ICE routinely transfers detainees within its detention network “based on available resources and the needs of the agency.”
Immigrant rights groups are seeking masks and other personal protective equipment for the ICE detainees. While other jails in Illinois have had outbreaks, these were the first reported ICE detainees with confirmed COVID-19 cases in Illinois. Nationwide, 72 individuals in ICE custody have been diagnosed with COVID-19. In addition to those in the Pulaski County facility, detainees have also been diagnosed with the coronavirus in Mississippi, New Jersey, New York, Arizona, Texas, Georgia, Florida, California, Louisiana, New Mexico, Pennsylvania and Michigan.
COVID-19 numbers in Southern Illinois
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