Advocates say moving people to the new facility in Bakersfield is raising serious concerns about the risk of exposing immigrants to valley fever. This disease is caused by a fungus that thrives throughout the Central Valley and parts of the Southwest, sending out spores.
Julia Mass is with the American Civil Liberties Union Foundation of Northern California.
“For the federal government to take them and force them to live in a place where they’re more susceptible to a life threatening illness is irresponsible and raises serious constitutional concerns and that’s why we’re calling on ICE to make sure there are screening procedures in place.”
She says distance is also a problem, since most cases are assigned to San Francisco Immigration courts.
“This is a real concern because that means people will be housed far away from the attorneys that are available to represent them.”
In recent years, a number of prisoners have sued the state after contracting valley fever. And at the beginning of this year, the state started transferring more than 2,100 inmates from two Central Valley prisons because they may have been especially susceptible to the disease.
Immigration and Customs Enforcement declined to comment on air. In a written statement, ICE says they’ve “been holding immigration detainees in the Central Valley for two decades and have never experienced a case of valley fever among its custody population.”
ICE is currently reviewing the letter sent by immigration advocates asking them stop transferring immigrants until they’ve assessed the health risks.