Three migrant children in the United States government custody have tested positive for coronavirus, according to the Office of Refugee Resettlement (ORR), making it the first announced positive cases among unaccompanied children in the agency’s care.
The children are currently in the care of one of the agency’s facilities in New York.
“ORR’s medical team is working with the programs in local health department in New York to gather information and determine next steps,” the agency said. It did not reveal which countries the children were from or their ages.
The agency, which is charged with the care of unaccompanied migrant children, had earlier put a stop to placing children in New York amid the rise in coronavirus cases. It has also stopped releasing children to sponsors, such as a parent or relatives, in the interim as well.
One staff contractor and Five staff members at three separate care provider facilities in New York also recently tested positive for the virus, ORR stated Thursday, as well as one staff member at another facility in Texas and one foster parent, all testing positive, in the State of Washington.
The ORR department, which falls under the Department of Health and Human Services, has had to adjust to the outbreak, constantly modifying its procedures to prevent the spread of the coronavirus among the approximately 3,500 children under its custody.
The number of unaccompanied migrant children in US government care tested for coronavirus has been increasing or recent. As at the time of compiling this article, eighteen (18) migrant children have been tested for coronavirus.
Office of Refugee Resettlement is requiring temperature checks twice a day at each facility, and visitors entering facilities must also have their temperature examined.
Migrant children who come to the US-Mexico border without parents or guardian are taken into custody by the Office of Homeland Security and referred to US Health and Human Services. While under care, case managers work to place a child under a sponsor in the U.S. As a precautionary measure, Office of Refugee Resettlement said it’s prioritizing local placement for new referrals “to limit air travels when possible.”
The recently announced cases come to the same week Immigration and Customs Enforcement, announced its first detainee in custody testing positive. The thirty-one (31) year-old Mexican national, held at the Bergen County Jail facility in Hackensack, New Jersey, has been quarantined and is presently receiving care, ICE said, adding that the agency “is temporary suspending intake at the facility until further information is available.”
Lawmakers and some Immigrant advocates have been calling for ICE to release detainees, warning that dangerous consequences could result if the disease spreads in ICE facilities that have long faced condemnation for how they handle even routine medical care.
Likewise, some immigrant-rights groups requested the expedited release of children from Office of Refugee Resettlement custody in light of the coronavirus outbreak, arguing that the children “have no ability to practice social distancing or take other serious measures” to avoid contracting the virus.
Recently, the Office of Refugee Resettlement reiterated that the “situation remains extremely fluid and can change rapidly.”