Through it all, officials from Immigration and Customs Enforcement, the agency that oversees the archipelago of detention centers, have issued routine pronouncements — that the detainees’ health care is among the agency’s highest priorities; that they are concerned about the latest reports; and that they are mounting investigations.
The government has an ethical and legal duty to provide care to migrant detainees. It has fallen short.
The pandemic’s toll in detention centers has been devastating; much of it was avoidable. At ICE’s Mesa Verde facility, in Bakersfield, Calif., officials initially decided it would be too difficult to quarantine detainees who tested positive for the virus — so they decided not to test them all. That was the policy until a federal judge in August ordered everyone there, migrants and staff alike, tested immediately. “There’s no question that this outbreak could have been avoided,” said U.S. District Judge Vince Chhabria, who