COVID-19 Outbreak in Adelanto ICE Detention Center

Of 80 jailed immigrants tested, 39 have tested positive, with an undisclosed number of results “still pending.”

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A civil rights group in Los Angeles called Thursday for the government to take immediate action to combat what it called a major outbreak of COVID-19 moving through the Adelanto ICE Processing Center.

Of 80 jailed immigrants tested, 39 have tested positive, with an undisclosed number of results “still pending,” according to the American Civil Liberties Union Foundation of Southern California, which quoted documents provided by the U.S. Department of Justice in response to an ACLU request.

The tests were done on people in two dorms at the center run by U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement that had reported COVID-19 cases, according to the ACLU.

ICE spokesperson Alexx Pons said that when a detainee exhibits symptoms consistent with COVID-19, immediate action is taken to isolate/monitor, provide care, and conduct contact tracing to extrapolate the possible source of the infection.

“All detainees continue to be tested for COVID-19 upon intake, and are isolated and monitored for a 14-day period in accordance with CDC guidelines to ensure the safety and health of all those in custody,” Pons said. “Pending test results, detainees are placed in a medical evaluation status, regardless of a negative test response. After a medical evaluation and negative test, detainees are then integrated into sanitized housing units. At no time during detention is a detainee denied emergent care.”

Late Wednesday, the ACLU filed an emergency request for a temporary restraining order in Los Angeles federal court. It calls for:

  • immediate testing of all people held at the Adelanto center;
  • the use of a rapid test that gives results in hours rather than days;
  • medical isolation of people confirmed as positive; and
  • medical isolation of people whose test results are pending.

The filing also asks for far more disclosure on testing and conditions at the Adelanto center. ACLU lawyers had previously asked for the U.S. Department of Homeland Security to test everyone held at the facility and the release of medically vulnerable individuals.


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“We have argued for months that the government's response to COVID-19 was putting the lives of immigrants held there at great risk,” said Jessica Bansal, senior staff attorney at the ACLU SoCal. “We urge all actors -- including the federal government, the state of California, and the federal courts -- to take the steps needed to protect these individuals from this deadly disease.”

As of Thursday, Adelanto was at 36% capacity, with 748 detainees, according to Pons.

In July, defense attorneys began filing bail applications with a Los Angeles federal judge on behalf of detainees at Adelanto requesting release. Since then, the judge has ordered nearly 60 detainees to be released.

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