STEWART COUNTY, Ga. — Concerns over the pandemic hit one of the largest detention facilities in the country. Stewart Detention Center is about fifty miles from hard-hit Dougherty county where there are more than a hundred COVID-19 cases.
Families and friends of loved ones detained by Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) want them released over fears that they might be at risk of contracting the virus.
“Coming into this country without authorization is one thing, but losing their lives over this virus is a completely different thing," Ana Maria Reichenbach told 11Alive's Elwyn Lopez.
Reichenbach said a friend of hers remains at Stewart after getting a DUI. She said he told her social distancing at the center is practically impossible.
“There’s literally no way to avoid a massive amount of people contracting the virus," she said.
There are no confirmed cases of COVID-19 at ICE detention facilities in Georgia, but there are two in New Jersey.
Federal immigration officials said they are screening new detainees to identify those who are at a higher risk of exposure and have suspended social visits to all of its detention facilities. The agency said it is also isolating detainees with fever and respiratory symptoms.
Reichenbach said her friend and others inside Stewart Detention Center are concerned that it might not be enough as COVID-19 symptoms could take days to show up.
“That’s the worry for the new people coming in, that’s the worry for the staff, the people in the kitchen, that’s what everyone is worried about," Reichenbach said.