Immigration attorneys concerned for safety after Stewart Co. Detention Center employee tests positive for COVID-19

Immigration attorneys concerned for safety after Stewart Co. Detention Center employee tests positiv

STEWART COUNTY, Ga. (WTVM) - News that a CoreCivic employee at Stewart Detention Center tested positive for COVID-19 has immigration law attorneys worried for the safety of their clients and themselves.

CoreCivic, the Nashville-based company that runs the facility, officials confirmed that the employee last worked at the facility on March 20 and is now isolated at home.

“We don’t know anything about that," said Jaquelinne Murillofigueroa, a mobile defense immigration attorney at Polanco Law in Lumpkin, Georgia. "We don’t know what interaction they’ve had with the detainees and I think that’s important information that us as attorneys and anyone who’s had access to the detention center in the past month should be able to know.”

According to CoreCivic’s public affairs manager, Ryan Gustin, the company that runs this detention center learned one of it’s employees tested positive for COVID-19 March 30.

Gore released the following statement:

“On March 30, we learned that a CoreCivic employee, who works at our Stewart Detention Center in Lumpkin, GA, has tested positive for COVID-19. The employee’s last shift at the facility was March 20, and they are currently isolated at home in regular communication with their healthcare provider for medical guidance. Efforts are underway to notify other employees or contractors who may have been in contact with the individual who tested positive. We have directed nine employees who are known to have had direct contact with this individual to self-quarantine at home for 14 days, as recommended by the CDC.
In addition, we are closely monitoring our detainee population and have placed 33 detainees who may have been in contact with this employee on quarantine in a separate housing unit at the facility."

A legal assistant at Polanco Law who has been visiting clients regularly said she’s worried they won’t get tested immediately if they have symptoms.

“They have to put in a request, send it to ICE, and then they have to wait five to seven business days to get the medical attention they need," said Alondra Torres Roman. "So, I’m worried for my clients because if they’re sick, they won’t be able to get medical attention until someone actually answers.”

Roman said Polanco Law is considering petitioning to get some of their clients released because of alleged dangers due to COVID-19 in the detention center.

“I can confirm at present no ICE detainees have tested positive at the Stewart Detention Center, and the number released by Core Civic that approximately 30 detainees out of the 1,500 in custody there have been placed in a medical cohort for monitoring is accurate,” said Lindsay Williams, the public affairs officer for ICE.

Medical cohorts have been put into place at multiple facilities to stem potential spread, so that is not a unique step. As for why medical cohorts would be in place, it’s in accordance with the CDC criteria for risk of exposure.

It is important to note that a cohort does not mean persons have been exposed.

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