Things That Matter

As Covid-19 Cases Surge At ICE Detention Centers, Many Are Asking How The Government Plans To Help

The Coronavirus pandemic has shined a light on the horrible and inhumane conditions inside ICE detention centers across the country. Unfortunately, the renewed scrutiny has resulted in very few meaningful changes and the virus continues to rage unchecked at several detention centers.

Experts say that ICE detention centers have been on notice since the beginning of the pandemic when its own public health experts were warning about the possibility of outbreaks.

“Inability to social distance, the effect of transfers, on exacerbating outbreaks. They’ve been on notice of all of this. Yet they have continued to have this very dangerous behavior of moving people around the country and exposing people,” one legal expert told ABC News.

At one Virgina facility, more than 90% of detainees have tested positive for Coronavirus.

At the Farmville Detention Center in Virginia, there are 315 total confirmed cases of COVID-19 at the Farmville Detention Center. The total number of people detained at Farmville is 360. That means nearly 90 percent of the population has COVID-19. And that’s according to ICE’s own numbers.

Lawyers representing a group of immigrant detainees at the ICE Detention Center in Farmville claim the facility overestimated their ability to handle detainee transfers, resulting in a spike of COVID-19 cases. They say the facility accepted a transfer of more than 70 detainees from Covid-19 hotspots, Arizona and Florida.

For their part, ICE says “The health, welfare and safety of U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) detainees is one of the agency’s highest priorities. During COVID-19, ICE has taken important steps to mitigate the spread of COVID-19 in its detention centers the agency, including the use of expanded voluntary COVID-19 testing for detainees in the agency’s custody.”

They added in a separate statement that “Medical checks are done twice daily, including a temperature screening and medication disbursement. Every detainee who needs medical attention is being seen. Farmville staff have worked diligently to keep detainees informed of the developing situation as it evolves through education and updates from medical staff on coronavirus symptoms and how their care and custody will be managed.”

Employees at ICE facilities are also at high-risk for contracting the disease.

Across the country in Arizona, which is experiencing one of the country’s worst outbreaks of the virus, ICE facilities are also dangerous for employees. CoreCivic, which operates two ICE facilities in the state, has said that 103 employees have tested positive for the virus.

CoreCivic released the new numbers on positive cases days after the death of a senior correctional officer at the Eloy Detention Center was attributed to COVID-19.

Conditions inside immigration detention centers during the pandemic are widely criticized by advocates, immigration lawyers, and immigrants held in the facilities. They describe the dangers of infection while being held in confined spaces in large groups, a lack of soap and personal protective gear, and other complaints.

Detainees have shared their experiences with their attorneys saying that there is a lack of social distancing and isolation space, and that many are denied proper medical care if they contract COVID-19.

Meanwhile, some ICE facilities actually prohibit the use of face masks.

According to a report by the AP, San Diego’s Otay Mesa facility – one of the largest in the country – actually prohibited face masks. The warden’s reasoning was that it would scare both employees and detainees. And in the weeks that followed, Otay Mesa Detention Center would see the first big outbreak at U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement’s 221 detention centers.

Although the outbreak’s origins are uncertain, several workers and detainees have shared the meager conditions inside the centers and how the private company is managing the disease. There was an early absence of facial coverings, and a lack of cleaning supplies. Symptomatic detainees were mixed with others.

Shortly after the initial outbreak at San Diego’s Otay Mesa facility, centers across the country began to experience their own outbreaks. The Associated Press found at Otay Mesa: 19% of facility directors said there weren’t enough standard surgical masks, 32% said there weren’t enough N95 respirator masks, and 37% felt there wasn’t enough hand sanitizer for detainees.

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Met Gala 2021 Is Happening And Amanda Gorman Is Set To Host The America-Themed Fashion Event

Entertainment

Met Gala 2021 Is Happening And Amanda Gorman Is Set To Host The America-Themed Fashion Event

Alex Wong/Getty Images

It’s 2021 and the Met Gala is back this year – after being canceled in 2020 thanks to a pandemic – with superstar poet Amanda Gorman being eyed to host the fashion event of the year. Given the 23-year-old’s show-stopping performance at the inauguration, the theme fittingly will be a celebration of America and American designers.

The Met Gala will return in 2021 with a very special guest as host.

Vogue’s “Oscars of Fashion” famously takes place on the first Monday of May. However, this year it’s been pushed back to September 13, in hopes that life will have returned to something closer to normal by then.

Epic poet Amanda Gorman is reportedly in talks to co-host the event alongside Tom Ford, who is the academy’s president. The breakout star of President Biden’s inauguration, Gorman is on the cover of the magazine’s May issue and the subject of a relentlessly glowing profile inside.

The black-tie gala, which raises funds for Met’s Costume Institute, is normally fashion’s biggest night and sees guests from Lady Gaga, Jennifer Lopez and Cardi B to Jeff Bezos, Elon Musk and even Maluma.

The event was canceled in 2020 thanks to a global pandemic.

The world’s most glamorous party was canceled in 2020 because of COVID-19, which was (and still is) raging the planet at the time. There was a virtual event in place of the 2020 event, with celebs like Julia Roberts, Priyanka Chopra and Amanda Seyfried showing off their looks from home and stars like Mindy Kaling and Adam Rippon taking part in the #MetGalaChallenge, recreating looks from past years.

This year’s event will draw inspiration from all things USA.

The theme of this year’s Met Gala has not been announced, but Page Six says the night will be devoted to honoring America and American designers, following the 18-month-long COVID crisis in this country.

Recent past themes for the event have included “Camp: Notes on Fashion” (2019), “Heavenly Bodies: Fashion and the Catholic Imagination” (2018), and “Rei Kawakubo/Comme des Garçons: Art of the In-Between (2017). And don’t forget 2016, when Zayn Malik wore robot-arms to Manus x Machina: Fashion in an Age of Technology.

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Smugglers Are Tagging U.S.-Bound Migrants With Color Coded Wristbands And Here’s Why

Things That Matter

Smugglers Are Tagging U.S.-Bound Migrants With Color Coded Wristbands And Here’s Why

WENDELL ESCOTO/AFP via Getty Images

As the United States experiences a so-called surge of people attempting to enter the U.S., human traffickers and smugglers are working double time as they try to capitalize on the increased movements.

Cartels and human traffickers have long run their smuggling operations like a legitimate business but they’ve only got more advanced in how they move people across the border region and one key tool: color-coded bracelets. These bracelets almost act as passports for migrants to safely cross a cartel’s territory without interference or threats of violence. But what do these bracelets mean and how are they fueling the problem of human trafficking?

Plastic bracelets are being used by cartels to identify migrants in their territory. 

U.S. border agents carried out nearly 100,000 apprehensions or rapid expulsions of migrants at the U.S.-Mexico border in February, which is the highest monthly total since mid-2019. With the increase in people attempting to cross the U.S.-Mexico border, cartels are managing this migration of people over their territory and trying to make money off the humanitarian crisis. 

Many cartels have implemented a color-coded bracelet system that identifies those migrants who have paid for permission to cross their territory. In the Rio Grande Valley sector, Border Patrol agents have recently encountered immigrants wearing the bracelets during several apprehensions, Matthew Dyman, a spokesman for U.S. Customs and Border Protection, told Reuters.

The “information on the bracelets represents a multitude of data that is used by smuggling organizations, such as payment status or affiliation with smuggling groups,” Dyman said.

The color-coded system isn’t totally understood.

Credit: ED JONES/AFP via Getty Images

Migrants can pay thousands of dollars for the journey to the United States and human smugglers have to pay off drug cartels to move people through parts of Mexico. This is a money-making operation and cartels want to pay close attention to who has paid. The bracelets may just be a new way to keep track.

Criminal groups operating in northern Mexico, however, have long used systems to log which migrants have already paid for the right to be in gang-controlled territory, as well as for the right to cross the border into the United States, according to migration experts. In fact, in 2019, smugglers kept tabs on rapidly arriving Central American migrants by double checking the names and IDs of migrants before they got off the bus to make sure they had paid. 

One man, a migrant in Reynosa – across the border from McAllen, Texas – who declined to give his name for fear of retaliation, showed Reuters a picture of a purple wristband he was wearing. He told them that he had paid $500 to a criminal group in the city after he arrived from Honduras to ensure that he wasn’t kidnapped or extorted. He said once migrants or their smugglers have paid for the right to cross the river, which is also controlled by criminal groups, they receive another bracelet.

“This way we’re not in danger, neither us nor the ‘coyote,’” he told Reuters.

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