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  • A vial of measles, mumps and rubella vaccine and an information sheet.

    A vial of measles, mumps and rubella vaccine and an information sheet. | Photo: Reuters

Published 15 March 2019

The protocol is crucial for both authorities and migrants, since being quarantined may prevent defendants from attending their court hearings. 

In the past 12 months, 236 confirmed or probable mumps cases have been reported in over 50 immigrant detention facilities. There were no cases reported between January 2016 and February 2018. 

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As the number of detained immigrants reaches a record high, with over 50,000 logged as of March 6, there have been many concerns raised regarding disease control, despite the countries responsible for most traffic having vaccination rates of up to 90 percent. The protocol is crucial for both authorities and migrants, since being quarantined may prevent defendants from attending court hearings. 

The privately operated Pine Prairie Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) Processing Center experienced a mumps outbreak in early January, resulting in the lockdown of hundreds of migrants. One 19-year-old inmate, Christian Mejia described many consequences of the outbreak, saying, "when there is just one person who is sick, everybody pays."

Mejia has been given an order of deportation following a hearing that was held over a conference line, since his attorney was unable to participate due to the quarantine. 

Pine Prairie was home to the first cases in January after the transfer of four migrants from the Tallahatchie County Correctional Facility in Mississippi. After some 40 new arrivals, from the same facility, were transferred to Pine Prarie, the medical staff raised concerns, but to no avail. 

The facility's warden, Indalecio Ramos, decided to not quarantine the new arrivals, arguing that it would prevent them from making their court dates. That is not the only instance of Pine Prairie's leniency with quarantining.

Internal emails reveal that ICE asked the facility to remove a detainee classified as a "high-profile removal scheduled for deporting" of his quarantine for chicken pox and mumps. Despite warnings raised by medical staff, the agency was told to "please ensure he leaves." 

Pine Prairie is run by  private prison operator the GEO Group. According to Pablo Paez, GEO Group spokesperson, the medical teams at the facility follow standards provided by ICE indicating that the deportation of migrants is prioritized over the health and safety of detainees and staff.


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