As a resident of the South Bay in San Diego, I have been extremely concerned to learn that just a few miles away the Otay Mesa Detention Center is operating as the national epicenter of the Coronavirus for immigrants in detention. According to U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement, 162 detainees at the facility had tested positive for COVID-19 as of June 11th – the greatest number of any immigration facility in the country. The Otay Mesa facility was also the site of the first immigration detainee death from the coronavirus. On May 6, Carlos Ernesto Escobar, a 57-year-old detainee from El Salvador, died as a result of contracting the virus while detained in Otay Mesa. Prior to Escobar’s death, detainees and advocates had been sounding the alarm about the fact that conditions in the facility make it impossible to achieve the public health standards recommended by federal and local authorities to minimize the spread of the virus.
Additionally, as of June 11th, there had been 11 confirmed cases of COVID-19 among ICE employees working at the Otay Mesa Detention Center, but ICE has not disclosed whether any of the guards who work for CoreCivic, the private prison company that runs the facility, have tested positive. As a community member, I’m concerned about the risk to surrounding residents as employees from the site travel back and forth from the facilities to our neighborhoods.
The above excerpt was originally published in Voice of San Diego.
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