As the Omicron variant sets record-high COVID-19 infection rates across the United States, we look at the conditions in the sprawling network of jails run by Immigration and Customs Enforcement where the Biden administration is holding more than 22,000 people.
“There’s still a lot of people detained. There’s no social distancing. People are still facing COVID,” says longtime immigrant activist Maru Mora Villalpando, who adds that most COVID infections are coming from unvaccinated workers who are coming from outside of the jails.
She describes how people held in GEO Group’s Northwest ICE Processing Center in Tacoma, Washington, say conditions have gotten even worse during the pandemic, after a federal judge ruled the company must pay detained people minimum wage for work like cooking and cleaning instead of paying them a dollar a day. GEO Group responded by suspending its “voluntary work program.”
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