Eight of the 21 deaths in custody reported in FY 2020 were caused by COVID-19, the news network reported. That’s more than twice the eight known deaths in 2019. The last time U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement reported that many deaths was in fiscal year 2005. You have to go back to FY 2004 to find a higher death tally, with 28.
CNN talked to immigrant rights advocates who said the deaths are a sign of deteriorating conditions, deficient medical care and a flawed handling of the pandemic. ICE told the network it takes the health and safety of detainees seriously and that deaths are rare.
The agency said it’s trying to prevent COVID-19 spread by reducing the population of detention centers below 75% capacity.
However, the number of ICE detainees grew significantly during the pandemic, CNN reported. Last year, the average ICE in-custody population was 50,165. But as of September 25, the agency only had 19,791 people in custody, the network reported.