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Fla. ICE facility sees massive spike in COVID-19 cases

Roughly half of the detainees that were transferred from the Krome Detention Center to Broward Transitional Center tested positive for COVID-19


A view of the Broward Transitional Center.

Photo/John McCall of Sun Sentinel via TNS

By Eileen Kelley
Sun Sentinel

BROWARD COUNTY, Fla. — A measure meant to slow the spread of the deadly coronavirus, actually increased the number of positive cases at a immigration detention facility in Broward by 533 percent over the weekend.

The Miami Herald reported that 33 detainees were transferred from the Krome Detention Center in Miami-Dade County to Pompano Beach’s Broward Transitional Center on Thursday in an effort to allow better social distancing at the Krome.

Krome, over time, has had 13 positive cases of COVID-19. Problem was, those transferred were tested the following day and roughly half of them tested positive for the disease.

Now the number of positive COVID-19 cases at the Broward center is 19, up from just three positive cases before the transfers.

A Department of Homeland Security official confirmed the Herald’s numbers when contacted Tuesday evening.

The transfer of detainees comes after a U.S. District judge ordered Immigration and Customs and Enforcement to shrink the number of detainees to 75 percent of capacity, allowing for social distancing at facilities. The judge said ICE was allowed to transfer detainees, the Herald reported.

The official from Homeland Security said in a email that since the outbreak of COVID-19, ICE has taken steps to safeguard all detainees, staff and contractors. He said this includes reducing the number of detainees in custody by placing individuals into alternatives to detention programs, suspending social visitation, incorporating social distancing practices with staggered meals and recreation times and providing medical isolation.

He said people who test positive are placed in isolation and all those who may have come in contact with the infected person must stay in a group quarantine to try and slow the spread.

Immigration lawyers seeking the release of detainees for humanitarian reasons filed a lawsuit in Florida’s Southern District a few weeks ago.

The official from Homeland Security said arrests were down nearly 50 percent during the month of April with 5,604 arrested nationwide compared to 10,154 arrested during the month of March.

In addition to the decline in ICE arrests, ICE’s detained population has also dropped by nearly 30 percent since the beginning of March.

As of May 9, ICE had 27,908 persons in custody compared to 38,537 in custody as of February 29 – a decline of more than 10,000 individuals, the official said.


©2020 the Sun Sentinel (Fort Lauderdale, Fla.)