John Bruning, a staff attorney for the Refugee and Immigrant Program with the Advocates for Human Rights, is working with a number of clients currently detained at Catahoula. (He previously represented Kadar.)
“Three of my clients think they have had COVID,” Bruning said. Another detainee, represented by the Kim Hunter Law firm, in St. Paul, also displays coronavirus symptoms, he said.
Meanwhile, there’s one confirmed case in the group–a detainee who came from the Northeastern United States.
‘If no tests are done, there are not positive tests’
The Somali men got tested a week ago at a detention center in Alexandria, Louisiana, before moving to Catahoula. “Supposedly they were tested negative, but most of them haven’t seen their test results,” Bruning said.
According to Bruning, one Somali detainee, from a Northeastern state, did test positive for COVID-19, and since then, four others have felt sick.
One of the reasons ICE has refused to test them again? Bruning suspects the Somali government may require negative tests in order to accept the deportees.
“ICE is fudging the numbers,” Bruning said. “They are lying to the Somali government in order to force through a deportation. It falls into this broader pattern with ICE, and from Trump himself. If no tests are done, there are not positive tests.”
Many of the individuals housed in this group have been detained long term, Bruning said. Coronavirus may be a factor here. “They have gone through removal proceedings,” he said. “A lot of them have been detained for six to nine months because ICE has not been able to deport them in that entire period of time. I think the airport in Mogadishu is closed. It remains to be seen whether they can deport them now.”
ICE in Washington, D.C., did not respond to Sahan Journal’s request for comment over email; the voice mailbox for media inquiries was not accepting messages.
Bruning said ICE tends to be tight-lipped about the timing of deportations, citing operational security. He and the other attorneys working with the group have heard Ithat CE plans to deport the detainees on Thursday. But they have also heard the group would have to travel to Alexandria first.
“If the flight were to happen, it would have to have happened yesterday,” Bruning said on Tuesday. “Originally the plan was for them to be quarantined for 14 days. That obviously has not worked out.”
Meanwhile, a hurricane looms, and could hit the jail in the next day, Bruning said.
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