To prevent the spread of the disease, the agency is screening new detainees for COVID-19 and segregating those with fevers and respiratory symptoms.
“ICE is firmly committed to the health and welfare of all those in its custody and is undertaking a comprehensive agency-wide review of this incident, as it does in all such cases,” ICE said in a news release about Baten-Oxlaj’s death.
CoreCivic said it is checking the temperatures of all detainees daily, serving meals in their housing units instead of in the dining facility and distributing masks.
“We’re working closely with our partners at Immigration and Customs Enforcement to ensure the health and safety of everyone at the Stewart Detention Center,” CoreCivic spokesman Ryan Gustin said in an email.
ICE said it arrested Baten-Oxlaj at a municipal probation office in Marietta on March 2 following his conviction for driving under the influence. On March 26, according to ICE, a federal immigration judge ordered him to return to his country when it would be medically safe for him to do so.
Baten-Oxlaj is the fifth Stewart detainee to die since 2017. Two detainees have hanged themselves in their solitary confinement cells in Stewart since that year. A third died in 2018 from pneumonia. Last year, the fourth died from a heart infection and multi-organ failure.
Immigrant rights activists have called on ICE to free vulnerable detainees amid the pandemic. ICE has said it is consulting Centers for Disease Control and Prevention guidelines and reviewing cases of pregnant detainees, those who are 60 years old or older and others “who may be more vulnerable to COVID-19.”
Marty Rosenbluth, an immigration attorney based in Lumpkin, said his clients at Stewart told him they don’t know of anyone who has been tested for the disease there, even those who have complained of illnesses.
“This was a death that was waiting to happen,” Rosenbluth said. “And the only thing that is surprising is that it hadn’t come sooner.”