Report finds ICE detention centre is using a disinfectant over 50 times a day that causes bleeding and pain

Lucy Nicholson/ReutersA communal area is seen at the Adelanto immigration detention centre, which is run by the Geo Group Inc (GEO.N), in Adelanto, California, U.S., April 13, 2017.
  • Two advocacy organisations have filed a complaint alleging that an Immigration and Customs Enforcement detention centre is using a COVID-19 disinfectant on the facility over 50 times a day.
  • Inland Coalition for Immigrant Justice and Freedom for Immigrants compiled the testimony of detainees who stated that HDQ Neutral is being used in un-ventilated areas – which its manufacturer, Spartan Chemical, warns can be harmful as it can cause skin burns and serious when inhaled.
  • Detainees at the Adelanto detention centre in California said many have fallen severely ill due to the constant spray, with at least nine falling severely ill since May 11 according to the report.
  • “When I blow my nose, blood comes out,” one inmate said. “They are treating us like animals. One person fainted and was taken out, I don’t know what happened to them. There is no fresh air.”
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Two advocacy organisations have filed a complaint alleging that Immigration and Customs Enforcement detention centre is using a COVID-19 disinfectant on the facility over 50 times a day.

The report, drafted by Inland Coalition for Immigrant Justice and Freedom for Immigrants, states employees at the Adelanto Detention Centre in California are spraying HDQ Neutral – which manufacturer Spartan Chemical warns can be harmful as it can cause skin burns and serious eye damage when inhaled – in poorly ventilated areas filled with detainees.

The complaint filed on May 21 compiled a slew of interviews with inmates describing the poor conditions in the facility. According to multiple accounts in the complaint, guards have been spraying HDQ Neutral every 15 to 20 minutes all over communal areas with devastating consequences on those imprisoned.

“The guards have started spraying this chemical everywhere, all over everything, all the time. It causes a terrible reaction on our skin,” one inmate said. “When I blow my nose, blood comes out. They are treating us like animals. One person fainted and was taken out, I don’t know what happened to them. There is no fresh air.”

Another inmate said he started profusely bleeding after coming into contact with the bathroom, which an official sprayed with disinfectant. They said the official told them it was HDQ Neutral.

“I started bleeding from my nose after being in contact with a strong chemical they are using,” they said. “I am still bleeding, more than five hours later.”

Since May 11, at least nine inmates have fallen severely ill.

GEO Group Inc. – the company that runs the detention centre – was previously accused of not doing enough to prevent the spread of coronavirus in its facilities

The GEO Group Inc. runs detention centres and correctional facilities across the United States, Australia, South Africa, Canada, and the United Kingdom.

The Adelanto Detention Centre falls under GEO management. This is not the first time a complaint has been launched against one of the companies facilities.

Throughout the course of the coronavirus pandemic, GEO facilities have been criticised for not taking the spread of the novel coronavirus seriously – leading to a massive number of COVID-19 cases among those imprisoned

US Rep. Nydia Velázquez tweeted her outrage at the conditions of New York City’s only private prison owned by GEO Group, where at least 38 inmates had tested positive for COVID-19.

“Conditions at these detention centres are so poor that this man contracted #COVID19TWICE,” Velázquez tweeted. “These institutions are not a safe place for inmates or those detained. We need compassionate release of vulnerable populations who present no public safety risk.”

The facility in Adelanto specifically had previously been criticised by Freedom for Immigrants for not properly cleaning to prevent the spread of COVID-19.

“It is appalling, but not surprising, that GEO staff at Adelanto are repeatedly subjecting people to a toxic chemical with no remorse,” Rebekah Entralgo, media advocacy strategist at Freedom for Immigrants, told Insider. “To us, this is an apparent act of retaliation for publicly reporting that GEO staff was previously only cleaning with water.”

GEO Group referred to ICE for comment.

Alexx Pons, a spokesperson for ICE, told Insider the department is “committed to maintaining the highest facility standards of cleanliness and sanitation, safe work practices, and control of hazardous substances and equipment to ensure the environmental health and safety of detainees, staff, volunteers and contractors from injury and illness. Disinfectant formulations used at Adelanto are compliant with detention standards, registered by the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), and used according to manufacture instruction for routine cleaning and maintenance of the facility. Any assertion or claim to the contrary is false.”

People are voicing their outrage on social media over the reported conditions at the Adelanto facility, likening the poor ventilation and exposure to toxic chemicals to gas chambers used to kill Jewish people and other minority groups during the Holocaust.

The immigration detention centres have also been frequently called concentration camps, especially after a wave of unaccompanied minors from Central America arrived in the US in the summer of 2018. Many of them were swiftly locked in detention facilities, shocking the world with images of small children locked in cages.

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