A few weeks into his time in immigrant detention, 35-year-old Antony was diagnosed with the flu. He was born with sickle cell anemia and is immunocompromised, so with COVID-19 spreading throughout the U.S., he was terrified.
If he contracted the coronavirus, it could kill him.
“I was praying a lot,” said Antony, who spoke to HuffPost through an interpreter and is being referred to by a pseudonym to avoid retaliation. “I was telling God to give me the strength and the courage to deal with this situation.”
Antony is one of the thousands of immigrants who have been detained by Immigration and Customs Enforcement during the coronavirus pandemic. He spoke to HuffPost about his experience in a detention center in New Jersey, one of the facilities that are vulnerable due to the use of common spaces, a lack of room for social distancing, a lack of proper medical attention and guards who might bring the virus in or carry it out.
Although ICE officials say the agency is taking precautions to avoid the spread of the coronavirus, including releasing more than 1,000 people, activists say that the facilities remain ill-prepared to protect those detained.
Immigrants were given face masks only recently, but most of them are forced to reuse single-use masks without being allowed to wash them or receive new ones. Those held were not given soap or sanitizers and some were even exposed to pesticides and other toxic substances.