2,200 quarantined over mumps outbreak at immigration centers

PHOENIX (AP) — Over 2,200 people exposed to the mumps virus in at least two immigration detention facilities have been quarantined, authorities said Tuesday.

Immigration and Customs Enforcement officials say the 25-day quarantine began March 7 at facilities in Pine Prairie, Louisiana, and Aurora, Colorado.

The outbreak has renewed long-held concerns over access to medical care at immigration facilities, especially at a time when more immigrants who are crossing the border are being held and for longer periods of time. There are nearly 47,000 immigrants currently detained around the country, according to an ICE spokesman.

ICE says 236 detainees have had confirmed or probable cases of mumps in 51 facilities in the past year. There were no reported cases between 2016 and 2018 at any ICE facilities.

Mumps is extremely rare, and infections have dropped by 99 percent since vaccinations began in the late 1960s. It can spread quickly through coughing, sneezing or even talking, and symptoms include swollen glands, fever, headache, muscle aches and pain while chewing or swallowing.

Laura Lunn, managing attorney for the Rocky Mountain Immigrant Advocacy Network’s detention program, said her organization has about a dozen clients who are quarantined in Aurora. Lunn said the facility has made her clients available for meetings as long as they wear a mask, but that she’s concerned about the health and safety of her staff, and is looking at alternate ways to meet with them.

None of her clients actually have mumps and all are Mexican or Central American men.

“The most profound restriction is people are not being taken for immigration court. They aren’t able to move forward with their cases and it’s prolonging their detention,” Lunn said.

Immigrant advocates have long said that medical care at immigration detention facilities is subpar, and they’ve filed several lawsuits after deaths or injuries in detention.


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