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ICE Detainees Refuse Coronavirus Testing, Trash Detention Facility Instead
A bunk bed inside a cell is seen at the Caroline Detention Facility in Bowling Green, Virginia, on August 13, 2018. - A former regional jail, the facility has been contracted by the US Department of Homeland Security Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) to house undocumented adult immigrant detainees for violations of immigration laws (Photo by SAUL LOEB / AFP) (Photo credit should read SAUL LOEB/AFP via Getty Images)
Photo credit: SAUL LOEB/AFP via Getty Images

Immigration and Customs Enforcement officials say approximately ten detainees at a facility in Massachusetts barricaded themselves inside and caused more than $25,000 worth of damages after being told they were being transferred to a medical wing for coronavirus testing.

NBC News reports that each of the ten detainees reported having at least two symptoms consistent with a COVID-19 diagnosis and all ten had to be moved to a medical wing for testing.

The detainees claim they resisted being moved because they were afraid they would become contaminated with the virus, even though they were already exhibiting symptoms.

“This all started because a group of 10 detainees each reported having at least two symptoms of COVID-19. The health care professionals told me they had to be tested in the medical unit because of the reported symptoms. The detainees refused to go into the medical unit for testing,” the center’s ranking official, Sheriff Thomas M. Hodgson, said in a statement released Friday. “The detainees refused to comply, became combatant and ultimately put the lives of themselves and many Bristol County officers at risk with their reckless actions.”

The ten detainees barricaded themselves inside a wing of the building, which they then tried to destroy, “breaking windows and ripping washing machines and pipes off the walls,” according to ICE. They “trashed the entire unit,” officials added in a statement.

The Daily Caller News Foundation also reports that the ten detainees launched an offensive against officers sent in to handle the situation: “When corrections officers, special response team members, and the K9 unit entered in order to control the situation, they were attacked by the detainees,” the agency’s statement says.

No officers were injured in the incident, but three of the detainees were transferred to a nearby hospital, one with symptoms of a “panic attack,” one over a pre-existing condition believed to be asthma, and one “for a medical incident after being removed from the ICE wing.” At least one of the detainees contacted an immigrant advocacy group looking to file a complaint against the ICE facility.

“[T]he sheriff approached me violently, grabbed my arm and scratched me, police came with pepper spray, spraying in everyone’s face and spraying in my mouth, and I suffer asthma,” the detainee reportedly told the immigrant advocacy group, according to NBC News. “They want to take us to the other unit to be tested. We don’t want to go on the other unit for cross contamination. We want to be tested, but not moved.”

Immigrant detention centers have become a flashpoint for coronavirus concerns, largely because the virus is known to spread easily in confined spaces like prisons, detention facilities, and nursing homes. The United States Customs and Border Protection Agency has let hundreds of detainees free over concerns about the spread of coronavirus and adopted a position, back in April, to simply turn around individuals discovered crossing the U.S.’s southern border illegally rather than hold them for criminal or asylum adjudication.

Immigration advocates have been pressing for the full release of inmates held on immigration charges, claiming the system itself places individuals in danger of contracting COVID-19.

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