Three unaccompanied migrant children in U.S. custody tested positive for the novel coronavirus, the Office of Refugee Resettlement (ORR) said Thursday, marking the first confirmed infections among children detained by the U.S. immigration services.
ORR, the agency in charge of around 3,500 unaccompanied children, did not provide details on the age or nationality of the children, who are being held in a New York facility, CNN reported.
“ORR’s medical team is working with the programs in New York and local health department to collect information and determine next steps,” it said in a statement shared with CNN.
As coronavirus case have surged in New York, ORR has stopped placing children in facilities or releasing them to sponsors there. Still, cases within the agency are already on the rise: Five employees and one contractor working at three New York facilities tested positive, in addition to one staff member at a Texas facility and a foster parent in Washington State, according to CNN.
Immigrant and asylum seeker advocates have been calling for U.S. authorities to release detained migrants over fears that the virus will spread fast through crowded detention centers. Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) reported its first detainee — a 31-year-old Mexican national held in New Jersey — testing positive for the virus on Tuesday.
Separately on Thursday, ICE released two men detained in Seattle who have preexisting medical conditions that put them at extra risk of dying from covid-19, the Associated Press reported.
The American Civil Liberties Union of Washington and Northwest Immigrant Rights Project had initially filed for their release along with seven other detainees on March 16.
President Trump announced on March 20 that due to coronavirus fears U.S. authorities will now immediately send back immigrants and asylum seekers caught trying to illegally enter the United States via the southern border with Mexico.
The Mexican state of Chihuahua, which lies along the U.S. border, said Thursday that it will build a shelter to house these deportees during a required two-week quarantine upon their return, the AP reported.