Report finds ICE detention center is using a disinfectant over 50 times a day that causes bleeding and pain

clopez@businessinsider.com (Canela López)
·5 min read
ice immigration detention center
A communal area is seen at the Adelanto immigration detention center, which is run by the Geo Group Inc (GEO.N), in Adelanto, California, U.S., April 13, 2017.

Lucy Nicholson/Reuters

  • Two advocacy organizations have filed a complaint alleging that an Immigration and Customs Enforcement detention center is using a COVID-19 disinfectant on the facility over 50 times a day.

  • Inland Coalition for Immigrant Justice and Freedom for Immigrants compiled the testimony of detainees who stated that HDQ Neutral is being used in un-ventilated areas — which its manufacturer, Spartan Chemical, warns can be harmful as it can cause skin burns and serious when inhaled.

  • Detainees at the Adelanto detention center in California said many have fallen severely ill due to the constant spray, with at least nine falling severely ill since May 11 according to the report.

  • "When I blow my nose, blood comes out," one inmate said. "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."

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Video: Immigration advocates fear coronavirus spread in detention facilities

Two advocacy organizations have filed a complaint alleging that Immigration and Customs Enforcement detention center is using a COVID-19 disinfectant on the facility over 50 times a day.

The report, drafted by Inland Coalition for Immigrant Justice and Freedom for Immigrants, states employees at the Adelanto Detention Center in California are spraying HDQ Neutral — which manufacturer Spartan Chemical warns can be harmful as it can cause skin burns and serious eye damage when inhaled — in poorly ventilated areas filled with detainees.

The complaint filed on May 21 compiled a slew of interviews with inmates describing the poor conditions in the facility. According to multiple accounts in the complaint, guards have been spraying HDQ Neutral every 15 to 20 minutes all over communal areas with devastating consequences on those imprisoned.

"The guards have started spraying this chemical everywhere, all over everything, all the time. It causes a terrible reaction on our skin," one inmate said. "When I blow my nose, blood comes out. 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."

Another inmate said he started profusely bleeding after coming into contact with the bathroom, which an official sprayed with disinfectant. They said the official told them it was HDQ Neutral.

"I started bleeding from my nose after being in contact with a strong chemical they are using," they said. "I am still bleeding, more than five hours later."

Since May 11, at least nine inmates have fallen severely ill.

GEO Group Inc. — the company that runs the detention center — was previously accused of not doing enough to prevent the spread of coronavirus in its facilities

The GEO Group Inc. runs detention centers and correctional facilities across the United States, Australia, South Africa, Canada, and the United Kingdom.

The Adelanto Detention Center falls under GEO management. This is not the first time a complaint has been launched against one of the companies facilities.

Throughout the course of the coronavirus pandemic, GEO facilities have been criticized for not taking the spread of the novel coronavirus seriously — leading to a massive number of COVID-19 cases among those imprisoned

US Rep. Nydia Velázquez tweeted her outrage at the conditions of New York City's only private prison owned by GEO Group, where at least 38 inmates had tested positive for COVID-19.

"Conditions at these detention centers are so poor that this man contracted #COVID19 TWICE," Velázquez tweeted. "These institutions are not a safe place for inmates or those detained. We need compassionate release of vulnerable populations who present no public safety risk."

The facility in Adelanto specifically had previously been criticized by Freedom for Immigrants for not properly cleaning to prevent the spread of COVID-19.

"It is appalling, but not surprising, that GEO staff at Adelanto are repeatedly subjecting people to a toxic chemical with no remorse," Rebekah Entralgo, media advocacy strategist at Freedom for Immigrants, told Insider. "To us, this is an apparent act of retaliation for publicly reporting that GEO staff was previously only cleaning with water."

GEO Group did not immediately respond to a request from Insider for comment.

In a statement to Yahoo News, Alexx Pons, a spokesperson for ICE, said the department is "committed to maintaining the highest facility standards of cleanliness and sanitation, safe work practices, and control of hazardous substances and equipment to ensure the environmental health and safety of detainees, staff, volunteers, and contractors from injury and illness."

People are voicing their outrage on social media over the reported conditions at the Adelanto facility, likening the poor ventilation and exposure to toxic chemicals to gas chambers used to kill Jewish people and other minority groups during the Holocaust.

The immigration detention centers have also been frequently called concentration camps, especially after a wave of unaccompanied minors from Central American arrived in the US in the summer of 2018. Many of them were swiftly locked in detention facilities, shocking the world with images of small children locked in cages.

Immigration and Customs Enforcement did not immediately respond to comment at the time this article was written.

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