ELOY, AZ — Eloy, Arizona has become the new hot spot for the coronavirus pandemic.
ABC15’s data research shows the city south of the Valley has the largest growth of COVID-19 cases in the state.
Eloy is also an area known for having two immigration detention centers.
ABC15’s special reporting project, The Rebound Arizona, spoke with families worried about loved-ones locked up inside these detention centers as they demand their release before they get sick.
The first COVID-19 death at an ICE detention center was reported yesterday at a location in San Diego, California.
“We’re all human beings, we all deserve to be treated equally. I’m just asking for help,” said Maviarely Hernandez.
Hernandez is a U.S. citizen, but her husband immigrated to the U.S. illegally when he was 12-years-old.
“We’re not perfect, we all make mistakes and we all deserve an opportunity,” said Hernandez.
According to Hernandez, her husband was arrested for a DUI about two years ago, but his case was dismissed.
She says he was still sent to the La Palma immigration detention center in Eloy where he now faces deportation.
For the last two years, Hernandez says, they have been in a constant battle for her husband’s release, but with COVID-19 spreading, their battle has turned into a fight to keep him alive.
“My husband’s been sick. He has like a sore throat, an infection. He hasn’t been feeling well. His body’s been hurting, he put a medical request, it’s been three weeks and he still hasn’t been seen. They say they couldn’t do anything about it and to just drink water,” said Hernandez.
According to ICE’s website, there are 33 detainees who tested positive for COVID-19 inside La Palma so far. That is 32 more cases than reported only a month ago.
According to ABC15’s data research, Eloy’s zip code alone has 61 positive cases as of today. The data is showing an increase of about 1,120 percent, making it the largest case growth of any zip code in Arizona.
“At least a quarter of the ‘pod’ where he’s at, is sick,” said Hernandez.
“It’s dangerous. They can die, all of them in just a few weeks. One by one,” said Susan, who asked to only be identified as Susan for fear of retaliation.
Susan says her son has been detained at La Palma since September, even though he qualifies for a green card.
Her biggest fear is losing her son, “all of them are going to die,” said Susan.
Both Susan and Maviarely are asking for release on parole.
“They’re not dangerous to people outside,” said Susan.
“They have a higher risk being in there than being home. At least with a bond,” said Hernandez.
What would it take for these immigrants to be released due to COVID-19?
According to an ICE spokesperson, “U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement is reviewing cases of individuals in detention deemed to be at higher risk for severe illness as a result of COVID-19. Utilizing CDC guidance along with the advice of medical professionals, ICE may place individuals in a number of alternatives to detention options. Decisions to release individuals in ICE custody occur every day on a case-by-case basis.”
We also heard from an ICE official familiar with the agency’s policies,
telling us as of April 10, 693 individuals have been released from ICE custody during the pandemic.
As far as how many have been released from La Palma? That information is not available.
“What he tells me when I talk to him, it breaks my heart to know all that stuff,” said Hernandez whose only hope is for her husband to at least get some medical help soon.
“Too many people have been dying because of this virus and I don’t want to lose my husband. I’m sure other people don’t want to lose their family members either,” added Hernandez.
The ACLU of Arizona filed a lawsuit for the release of eight immigrants with serious medical conditions last month. So far, seven have been released.
If you would like to report an issue related to Arizona’s ICE detention centers, email investigator Liliana Soto at Liliana.Soto@abc15.com.