Christian Mejia was looking forward to the day he would be able to leave a detention center for immigrants in Louisiana. He thought his day of freedom would come soon after he secured the services of an immigration lawyer and applied for asylum in the United States. But the plans of Mejia were derailed when he was quarantined.
An outbreak of Mumps at an immigration center run by a private company placed Mejia and others at risk for the serious disease. It also caused the hundreds of detainees at the facility to be quarantined and locked down.
Mejia, who is 19 years of age, explained during a phone interview that if one person at the detention center falls ill, all the detainees at the facility are punished. Meija says the quarantine meant weeks without visits, no access to the library, and eating meals in a cell versus the dining hall.
Mejia, who hails from Honduras, says his deportation hearing took place even though his lawyer was not allowed into the facility. Mejia’s lawyer was allowed to take part in proceedings via teleconference. However, Mejia received the bad news that he would be deported back to Honduras.
According to Reuters, the number of immigrants in detention centers has reached numbers that have never been seen before in the country. This has led advocates for immigrant rights to express concerns regarding disease outbreaks like the one at the Pine Praire Immigration Detention Center.
Information provided by ICE indicates more than 50,000 immigrants were being detained as of March 6 of the present year.
The problem at Pine Prairie highlights how difficult it can be to deal with complications from disease outbreaks like the one at Pine Prairie. This is because these immigrants are transferred throughout the nation and persons infected with contagious diseases often show no discernible symptoms.
Mumps is easily spread by saliva droplets that travel through the air. The problem is worse for people living in close quarters. The majority of people infected with mumps are well within a few weeks. However, the disease can lead to swelling of the brain, a loss of hearing, and sterility.
Health officials working with ICE have been alerted to 236 cases of the mumps over the past year. The cases are spread out over 51 detention centers across the country. A year ago 423 detainees were diagnosed with the flu and another 461 had the chicken pox.