ICE Cites Bunk-Bed Barriers to Defend Distancing of Migrants

(Bloomberg) -- U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement said it’s trying to maintain proper social distancing to protect migrants in custody from coronavirus by having them sleep head-to-toe in bunk beds that are separated by “metal and mattress” barriers.

While the vertical space between bunks is only four feet, the head-to-toe configuration provides the six feet of distance recommended by the Centers for Disease Control, an ICE contractor told a Seattle federal judge who’s weighing whether the agency’s measures are adequate to protect against Covid-19 spreading at a facility in Tacoma, Washington, that is designed for a population of 1,575 and currently houses about 800 detainees.

The government said it’s tested three detainees for the virus and none were positive. GEO Group Inc., the publicly traded company that manages the Tacoma facility for ICE, said that detainees working voluntarily in kitchens to prepare meals or cut hair in the barbershop may be unable to stay six feet apart, but that protective gear is available for them.

ICE’s response is “grossly inadequate,” said Matt Adams, an attorney for the Northwest Immigrant Rights Project who’s urging the judge to release detainees at high risk of falling ill because they are older or medically vulnerable. “It’s ridiculous that they can keep appropriate distancing when they’re sleeping in bunk beds” and eating and bathing communally, Adams said.

Two federal judges in New York in late March ordered the release of about two dozen ICE detainees and blasted the agency for being indifferent to the medical needs of those in custody.

©2020 Bloomberg L.P.

BQ Install

Bloomberg Quint

Add BloombergQuint App to Home screen.