Immigrant Detainees With COVID-19 Forced Into Court in South Florida

Photo by Smith Collection/Gado/Getty Images

By Araceli Cruz

September 25, 2020

The detainee said on the record that he had contracted the coronavirus while inside the detention center.

If you have COVID-19, you must self-isolate, avoid coming into close contact with other people. That’s the rule of thumb that the Center for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) has been enforcing since the pandemic hit. However, that doesn’t seem to be the case in South Florida. In a report by the Miami Herald, immigrant detainees that have COVID-19 have been taken out of isolation in order for them to appear in court. 

On Sept. 23, a Venezuelan detainee attended his court hearing via video at the Miami (Krome) Immigration Court and told the judge that he was removed from his isolation cell at the Glades County Detention Center in Moore Haven by a Glades County lieutenant. The video showed him standing alongside other detainees awaiting their court hearing.

RELATED: 75% of Detained Immigrants at Virginia Detention Center Have COVID-19

Andrea Crumrine, a South Florida immigration attorney, witnessed the exchange between the detainee with COVID-19 and the lieutenant.

“The lieutenant was encroaching, creeping closer and closer to the detainee when he was answering the judge’s questions. The man said on the record that he contracted the virus at Glades,” Crumrine told the publication. “My client and other detained immigrants sit in the same chair as him, lean on the same table. People from other housing pods line up to go into that room to attend virtual court. And let me tell you, the judge had a full docket of hearings this morning.”

The US Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) reports that the Glades County Detention Center currently has 168 COVID-19 cases among detainees. One detainee is in isolation, and another died of COVID-19.

READ MORE: Two Latino Reps. Call on FBI to Investigate Disinformation Aimed at Florida Latino Voters

ICE is already facing numerous complaints and lawsuits over their handling of the pandemic within their facilities. Since the pandemic began, the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) has filed more than 50 lawsuits against ICE detention facilities in states around the country. Through their legal efforts, the ACLU has gotten more than 525 people released from detention centers. 

Just this week, a federal court in California ordered Homeland Security to release their coronavirus reports in order to assess how the agency is approaching the virus at detention centers. An investigative report released this week by the House Committee on Oversight and Reform Chairwoman shows that detained immigrants have died because of a lack of medical care.

RELATED: DHS Announces Investigation into Claims of ICE Detainees Being Sterilized Without Their Consent

Tomorrow, the Congressional Hispanic Caucus (CHC) members and members of the House Judiciary Committee will travel to Georgia to investigate the Irwin County Detention Center in Ocilla, where multiple immigrant women have alleged hysterectomies and other medical procedures were performed without their consent. 

“ICE continues to prove that it cannot be trusted to protect the health, safety, and dignity of detained people—especially during a deadly pandemic,” Andrea Flores, deputy director of immigration policy at the ACLU, said in a statement

Neither the Glades County Sheriff’s Office nor ICE commented on their court procedures in South Florida.



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