Immigrants at the Otay Mesa detention center tell Telemundo 20 they were tested for COVID-19 two weeks ago and have yet to receive physical proof of their results.
Detainees said officials are mixing people with COVID-19 symptoms with those who show no signs of the virus.
According to Omar Humberto Mayares, a Mexican national detained at the center, the fear of coronavirus is latent among detainees, "many have accepted the fact that they are going to die."
For seven months, Mayares has been waiting to receive asylum in the United States, and recounted his experience to Telemundo 20 in the middle of the pandemic. Like other detainees, he also feels defeated and labeled the officers "negligent."
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"Yes, in the hole, they're putting the quarantine sick there," Mayares said, referring to where they place the punished detainees. "Yes. They're putting them there, sick, and they also put the detainees who are grounded. I was grounded, I came from that hole."
According to CoreCivic, the private company that manages the facilities, the detention center has designated spaces to prevent the spread of the virus. They assured Telemundo 20 that detainees do not lose their rights or access to activities. They said this operation should not be confused with solitary confinement.
U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement, for its part, told Telemundo 20 that the 372 detainees at Otay Mesa were assessed on July 7 as part of a national effort to expand the scope of COVID-19 examinations in detention centers. ICE reiterated that it provides medical services to detainees in their custody.
"That answer is false. They always take their time to send the medical staff. If you're not being listened to, you have to physically throw yourself on the ground for the cameras to see," said Oscar Navarres, another detainee at the Otay Mesa Detention Center.
Once the detainee is picked up by the cameras, they shout "man down", words that are synonymous with the gravity of the situation in this case.
"Mr. Escobar Mejía, may he rest in peace, when he could no longer move and was lying in his bed with vomit in the trash can and on the floor. Instead of moving him to the hospital knowing he was in a deteriorating state, what they did was they took him out of this unit, moved him to Unit L where all the people with COVID-19 were," Navarres said.
Carlos Ernesto Escobar Mejía, 58, was hospitalized a week before he died. He was the first detainee in immigration custody nationwide to die from COVID-19.
According to the latest information from CBP, Wednesday 169 detainees have tested positive for coronavirus at the Otay Mesa Detention Center.