Asylum Seekers Given Choice: Deportation or Exposure to COVID-19

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Three Cameroonian asylum-seekers locked up at the Pine Prairie ICE Processing Center in Louisiana say that a U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement guard threatened to expose them to COVID-19 if they failed to obey his orders and submit to a transfer, reports The Intercept. The Pine Prairie facility, which is operated by the private prison firm GEO Group, currently has 21 confirmed coronavirus cases, according to ICE’s own tracker. After the threat of contagion, guards forcefully dragged and pushed the group of Cameroonian asylum-seekers — five in total — yelling at them and repeatedly threatening them in an attempt to begin the deportation process. All five of the men had spent over a year in detention, said the three asylum-seekers, after fleeing a brutal and homicidal regime in Cameroon that has been targeting protesters supporting, or even adjacent to, the Anglophone separatist movement.

After an affidavit submitted by a coalition of immigrant advocacy groups was delivered to the Department of Homeland Security’s Office of Inspector General, the deportation flight was canceled. The letter lists a host of violent tactics ICE officials used to pressure the detainees to submit to their deportation, alleging that they engaged in torture. The threats of exposing detainees to COVID-19 are being reported here for the first time.

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