Jun 14, 2019 - Politics & Policy

Number of ICE detainees under quarantine for mumps and chicken pox spikes to 5,200

This image shows a birds eye view of a large room with rows of plastic green chairs and a catwalk around the top of the wall.

The Caroline Detention Facility in Bowling Green, Virginia, on August 13, 2018. Photo: Saul Loeb/AFP/Getty Images

ICE has placed 5,200 detainees under medical quarantine at 39 separate detention facilities for exposure to mumps and chicken pox, an ICE official tells Axios.

Why it matters: Mumps, a fast-spreading but relatively mild virus that sometimes causes serious complications, is on the rise in ICE facilities. In March, an ICE official told Reuters that 2,287 detainees were medically quarantined in the U.S. There were no confirmed reports of mumps among ICE detainees before 2018, per an ICE official.

  • The long- and short-term effects on those quarantined include lengthier stays in detention, delayed deportation and postponed scheduled consular interviews, Nathalie Asher, ICE executive associate director for enforcement and removal operations, tells Axios.

Between the lines: People who are quarantined can face limited access to their attorneys and bond or asylum proceedings, Quartz reports.

By the numbers: As of June 13, there are 4,276 detainees quarantined for exposure to mumps, 99 for exposure to mumps and chicken pox, and 825 for exposure to chicken pox alone. Since September 2018, ICE has had 334 confirmed cases of mumps among people in custody.

On the ground: Sara Ramey, immigration attorney and executive director of the Migrant Center for Human Rights, says a third of the clients she currently sees in the South Texas Detention Center are in medical quarantine for mumps.

  • "It’s much more of an issue than it has been in the past," Ramey said. "Hearings have been postponed a lot. That leaves the person in detention for weeks more than they would normally."
  • “There certainly seems to be an uptick of cohorts or quarantines happening in the detention centers. That seems to be a regular feature, where before it was an anomaly," Elissa Steglich, Clinical Professor at the University of Texas' Immigration Clinic, tells Axios.
  • "CoreCivic said they are offering vaccinations to the detainees, but not all are accepting the vaccinations," Deb Kline, director at Cleveland Jobs With Justice, tells Axios about the Northeast Ohio Correctional Center.
    • "They said 76% of the detainees have been vaccinated," she said, but CoreCivic, which owns and manages private prisons, did not specify what languages the vaccines were being offered in; it only confirmed that multiple languages were being used.

Of note: The recommended 2 doses of MMR vaccine is roughly 88% effective at preventing mumps, per the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

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