COVID-19 cases continue increasing at PIDC

An infirmary inside the Port Isabel Detention Center. Photo courtesy of U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement.

By Gaige Davila

The Port Isabel Detention Center (PIDC) in Los Fresnos, Texas, saw another increase in COVID-19 cases this week, with 54 cases confirmed as of June 18. 

Of those cases, 41 are active, as of June 18. The PIDC has seen a steady rise in cases for the last two weeks.

Inside the PIDC, more reports of inadequate soap distribution to detainees and hunger strikes are being relayed by detainees to local advocates and to the PRESS. 

Norma Herrera, an advocate with RGV Equal Voices Network, who speaks with detainees inside PIDC daily, said that detainees are still initiating hunger strikes regularly. Their reason, Herrera said, is because PIDC and or U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) staff are not giving them information on COVID-19’s spread through the facility. 

This has also been said by a PIDC detainee named Steven, a 36-year-old pastor from Uganda, who spoke with the PRESS last week by phone from PIDC. 

“The virus came in, we were exposed,” Steven said. “My dormmate, she was exposed by an officer who did not have PPE (Personal Protective Equipment) and just came to the dorm and then after that day was confirmed to be positive and then they came and told us we were under quarantine because we had been exposed. No more information was given to us as a result of our exposure to the COVID.”

He continued, “So because we were in the quarantine that we never knew anything about, we demanded that they give us information on how long the quarantine was going to take and what should we do in this quarantine and what was the quarantine all about. So the medical (staff) did not come to tell us we’ve been in quarantine for the last fourteen days, medical never appeared to tell us anything about the quarantine, so we resisted.” 

PIDC staff, Steven said, resisted themselves. 

“When ICE came, they retaliated with threats, they asked me, ‘are you dying, are you sick? If you’re not dying or sick, shut your mouth, keep quiet,’” Steven said. 

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