U.S. authorities face growing calls to shutter all of the nation’s immigration courts, and to release detained immigrants who do not pose a threat to public safety after an ICE detention center worker tested positive for the coronavirus.

By Joel Rose

Immigration and Customs Enforcement reported for the first time this week that one of its workers has the virus that causes COVID-19. ICE also says there are no confirmed cases of coronavirus among its more than 37,000 detainees nationwide.

But immigrant advocates and physicians warn that an outbreak in an ICE detention facility is inevitable as the pandemic spreads and the number of cases in the U.S. rises quickly.

“A coronavirus outbreak at immigration detention facilities is imminent, if it’s not already happening,” said Silky Shah with the Detention Watch Network.

More than 3,000 physicians signed a letter urging ICE to release detainees while their legal cases proceed — particularly adults over 60 and people with serious chronic medical conditions that would put them at higher risk in the event of an outbreak.

“They’re just stuck there like sitting ducks,” said Dr. Ranit Mishori, who also signed the letter. Mishori is a professor at Georgetown University School of Medicine and medical adviser to the group Physicians for Human Rights. “The window of opportunity is rapidly, rapidly closing because I think we need to let them out before they become sick.”

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