Otay Mesa Detention Center
The Otay Mesa Detention Center, which has seen the largest number of COVID-19 cases among the country’s Immigration and Customs Enforcement facilities, is run by CoreCivic, a private company. Photo via corecivic.com.

An Otay Mesa Detention Center detainee died Wednesday from COVID-19, marking the first confirmed death of a U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement detainee from the virus, according to the American Civil Liberties Union.

Nearly 200 confirmed cases have made the facility’s outbreak the largest out of any ICE detention center in the country.

Representatives from ICE and CoreCivic, the private company that runs the detention center, did not immediately return requests for comment.

The unnamed person died amid legal efforts to release the majority of the detainee population due to the outbreak.

The ACLU has filed several lawsuits demanding the release of ICE and U.S. Marshals detainees at the facility. Last week, a San Diego federal judge ruled that “medically vulnerable” detainees at the facility should be released, and nearly 100 were recommended for release earlier this week.

Monika Langarica, one of the ACLU’s attorneys who has argued for the release of Otay Mesa detainees, said, “We extend our sincere condolences to the family of the person who passed away in ICE custody at Otay Mesa this morning. We filed a lawsuit demanding the immediate release of medically vulnerable people from Otay Mesa weeks ago, urging that release under these circumstances is a matter of life and death.

“Today one of those people has died because ICE refused to release him when he still had a chance to survive this deadly virus,” she said. “We continue to call on ICE and CoreCivic to act urgently and with humanity. This tragic news is even more evidence that failing to act will result in cruel and needless death.”

A hearing is slated for Friday, at which an update on the ongoing release of the medically vulnerable detainees is expected.

— City News Service