Washington, Aug 11 .- Immigrants located in United States detention centers face a substantial increase in the use of force during the Covid-19 pandemic that continues to hit the country today.
According to the BuzzFeed website, from late March to early July, guards at detention centers used pepper spray, pepper balls and pepper spray grenades in a dozen incidents involving more than 10 immigrants at a time.
According to the media, which reviewed internal government reports on the facilities of the Immigration and Customs Control Service (ICE), there are more than 600 people who were subjected to these collective uses of force.
The recent figures contrast with the period before the pandemic, since from September to March there were only two such incidents against more than 10 detainees, the website noted.
Danielle Bennett, a spokesperson for ICE, told the outlet that during the health crisis, the agency saw an increase in events in which groups of detainees confronted their staff, sometimes acting in ways that are not safe for the general population.
According to the spokesperson, when such incidents occur and staff cannot control the situation by other means, pepper spray is allowed and is consistent with ICE protocols, to preserve order and maintain a safe environment.
But medical experts consulted by BuzzFeed warned that an increase in the use of pepper spray during the pandemic in an enclosed space is concerning. Is it a bad idea.
Pepper spray is an irritant to the respiratory system and often causes people to cough, and we know that coughing increases the spread of the virus (SARS-Cov-2 coronavirus, which causes Covid-19), said Marc Stern, specialist in public health and faculty member of the University of Washington. BuzzFeed indicated that some incidents in which immigrants refused orders from guards were directly related to the pandemic: detainees who protested the conditions of the places, resisted being quarantined or were transferred within the facilities.
For their part, immigrants and groups that defend their rights consider that the use of these methods is unjustified and excessive.
The lack of transparency in these facilities has allowed the guards to use force with impunity. Since the beginning of the pandemic, this has only gotten worse, due in part to the fear of those detained as the virus continues to spread in the facility, said Eunice Cho, a lawyer with the American Civil Liberties Union. (Text and photo: PL)