A new report from two immigration advocacy groups says a detention center operated by the U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) in California is spraying a harmful disinfectant onto commonly touched surfaces and into unventilated spaces over 50 times a day — “all day and all night” — as their method of stopping the spread of the novel coronavirus.
Inmates held at the detention center are coming forward, detailing that the constant spraying is causing nearly every person to have bloody noses, burning eyes, and headaches, according to the report from Insider.
The Inland Coalition for Immigrant Justice and Freedom for Immigrants filed an official complaint on May 21 and sent a letter to ICE and the Department of Homeland Security that outlined testimony of detainees at the Adelanto, CA facility, which is one of the country’s largest ICE detention centers with nearly 1,300 individuals being held there, the Desert Sun reported.
The first-person eyewitness perspective from inmates says immigration officers are spraying a harmful disinfectant called HDQ Neutral into unventilated areas nearly every 15 to 20 minutes.
HDQ Neutral’s manufacturer, Spartan Chemical, warns in the hazard-safety chemical document that HDQ Neutral disinfectant is severely harmful if inhaled and that it “causes severe skin burns and serious eye damage.”
Spartan Chemical’s guidelines also specify that HDQ Neutral should be used “only outdoors or in a well-ventilated area” and protective gear, like masks and gloves, should always be worn while handling the chemical.
Typically, if someone came into contact with HDQ Neutral on either their eyes or skin, or if it was inhaled or ingested, Spartan Chemical clearly directs the person to, “IMMEDIATELY CALL A POISON CENTER OR PHYSICIAN.”
The individuals being held in the Adelanto immigration detention facility have no masks for personal protection, and no one to call, as their cries of eyes burning and blood being coughed up fall on deaf ears, the advocacy organizations write in their letter.
“When I blow my nose, blood comes out,” one inmate told the advocacy groups, as quoted by Insider. “They are treating us like animals. One person fainted and was taken out, I don’t know what happened to them.”
“There is no fresh air,” the inmate concluded.
After hearing the news about the detention center, one twitter user said, “ICE is turning its detention camp in Adelanto, CA into a literal gas chamber.”
Alexx Pons, a spokesperson for ICE, told Insider that the “disinfectant formulations used at Adelanto are compliant with detention standards, registered by the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), and used according to manufacturer instructions for routine cleaning and maintenance of the facility.”
Pons concluded: “Any assertion or claim to the contrary is false.”
Advocates say this is not the first time that this detention facility has been put under national scrutiny.
The Adelanto immigration detention center is run by the Geo Group Inc (GEO.N), which was previously criticized during the pandemic for “not doing enough” to prevent the spread of the coronavirus in its facilities, and for not carrying out enough COVID-19 testing.
As of early May, ICE reported that only six inmates out of the 1,295 immigrants held at the Adelanto detention center were tested for COVID-19, the Desert Sun detailed.
Gabriel Valdez, an assistant field office director of Enforcement and Removal Operations for ICE, told the Desert Sun that the testing protocol at Adelanto is “following guidance issued by the Centers for Disease Control to safeguard those in its custody and care.”
The testimony about the chemical spraying at Adelanto follows on the heels of a lawsuit filed by the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) Foundation of Southern California on behalf of six detainees at the facility, Yahoo News reports.
The ACLU lawsuit alleged there was a “humanitarian crisis” at the Adelanto facility due to the unsanitary conditions and the coronavirus, “which was leading to a situation in which the deadly illness could ‘explode’ among the detainees.”
This summary was prepared by TCR staff writer Andrea Cipriano