Coronavirus incubating in ICE detention centers

ATLANTA (Mar 22, 2020) – At least three detainees in Krome Detention Center in Miami, FL have been tested for COVID-19, according to intelligence received and vetted by the Citizens Embassy of Venezuela (also known as the para-embassy). Results are expected by tomorrow. A fourth awaits testing but is showing symptoms. Several other detainees in other facilities are showing symptoms.

The first report about COVID-19 in Krome Detention Center came from the wife of a detainee, who used his phone privilege to inform his wife that four detainees in Unit 11 had been tested for COVID-19 and have begun showing symptoms. Unit 11 of the Krome facility is under full lockdown quarantine while the rest of the migrant prison continues as usual.

According to the Citizens Embassy’s eyes and ears inside the South Louisiana Correctional Center, an additional two detainees in that prison have also tested positive for the virus. From the information gained from these inside sources, of the six likely cases of COVID-19 known to us, three of them are Cuban refugees, two are Venezuelan refugees, and we have yet to confirm the nationality of the sixth victim.

While we have only been able to examine the above mentioned cases, we have received reports from both facilities that additional detainees are showing symptoms of COVID-19. All three of the Cubans were recently transferred from other detention centers, meaning others are infected in other ICE prisons. We have also received word that the warden of Richwood Correctional Center in Louisiana, Ray Hansen, currently has the virus.

What is extremely concerning to Venezuela’s “Citizen Ambassador”, Hunter Collins, is that every single one of the refugees being wrongfully detained in these detention centers is at high risk of being infected. These migrant prisons on average have up to 1,000 occupants per facility, and they have no way to implement the social distancing guidelines released by the CDC and the White House. Also, many of these detainees are aging, have chronic health issues, and are in significantly greater danger of dying from the virus than the average coronavirus patient.

Collins says, “The worst thing about it is that most of these Cubans and Venezuelans, and probably a bunch of other detainees, shouldn’t even be in there. They didn’t enter the US illegally. They asked for asylum at a port of entry, which isn’t illegal, and then they got locked up. Even though they qualify for asylum, have evidence of their persecution back home, and they have relatives and friends here in the US that will take them in if they get paroled. But the judges won’t parole them because ICE needs high numbers to justify their funding, and for-profit prison companies like GEO Group and LaSalle Management are getting paid anywhere in the ball park of $200 to $500 per person, per day in these facilities.”

Citizens Embassy volunteer Dr. Kyle Varner opines, “If anyone dies under those conditions, the federal government will have lawsuits on their hands. This is cruel and indifferent treatment of prisoners.” Varner is currently working seven days a week and overtime due to the pandemic. Previously, he treated hundreds of Venezuelan refugees as a volunteer at a refugee clinic in Cucuta, Colombia.

Despite participating in the quarantine and practicing social distancing, the volunteer staff of the para-embassy is working hard to free these wrongfully detained, at-risk prisoners. We’ve been writing letters and emails, making phone calls, and pestering ICE deportation officers to the best of our ability. We demand that ICE and private prison wardens recommend every non-infected Cuban, Venezulan, and every other nonviolent detainee for parole, into the care of their friends and relatives, and transfer the infected prisoners to a hospital rather than continue to let the virus incubate in these migrant prisons.

If any detainee dies or is permanently injured from contracting COVID-19 due to being detained by ICE and its for-profit auxiliaries, regardless of nationality, we will launch lawsuits not only against ICE and whatever for-profit company held the victim, but we will also launch individual lawsuits against the prison wardens, ICE deportation officers, and judges.

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The Citizens Embassy of Venezuela began with a joke when activist Hunter Collins symbolically dismissed Venezuelan Ambassador to the US, Carlos Vecchio, for failing to fulfill the duties of his office. They published the Virtual Venezuelan Citizens Embassy website after Vecchio’s embassy website had been down and offline for two months. Despite gaining attention and notoriety with political satire, the volunteers and staff of the Citizen Embassy are serious about their commitment to fight for the freedom of Venezuela and the dignity of the Venezuelan diaspora.

Death to Maduro and his criminal regime.

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