A second immigration detainee at the Strafford County jail tested positive this week for COVID-19. The detainee arrived from a Connecticut jail a week ago.
An Immigration and Customs Enforcement official said the detainee is 29 years old and a native of El Salvador. The ACLU, which is suing ICE over detention decisions at the jail in light of the pandemic, said he was transported to the Strafford County jail from a prison in Torrington, Conn.
Five inmates who had either direct or indirect contact with the Salvadoran have been tested and are awaiting the results, according to Jail Superintendent Chris Brackett.
The Dover jail, which houses non-criminal ICE detainees under contract, has been the focus of COVID-19 issues because of a high-profile lawsuit brought by the American Civil Liberties Union and four prominent New Hampshire law firms.
No other New Hampshire jail has reported COVID-19 infections among inmates. The state Corrections Department has reported no infections either, but as of Wednesday had tested only 15 of its 2,500 inmates, according to its website.
On Wednesday, District Court Judge Landya McCafferty ordered ICE to free Waldemar Kaminski from the jail. ICE has started deportation proceedings against Kaminski, who according to online news accounts was arrested in 2010 in Rhode Island and charged with shaking and injuring his infant son.
An angry McCafferty said ICE should have released Kaminski, who suffers from lung issues, without his lawyers having to bring the case before her. She said he is at high risk for coronavirus infection, is not a flight risk and has been on probation for four years without a single problem.
“He’s not in the jail assaulting people,” McCafferty said. “Once you see anything that talks about lungs, breathing, bronchitis, he is releasable without the intervention of a federal judge.”
On Saturday, county officials announced its first case of COVID-19 among Strafford County jail inmates. ICE announced the second case on Tuesday night.
Brackett, who took pains not to officially identify the two as ICE detainees, said the second non-county detainee arrived on May 14 and would not speak to jail officials, so he remained in the booking section of the jail. There, he was exposed to three non-county detainees. Brackett stressed the detainee was not violent.
Eventually, the detainee agreed to be transported to Wentworth-Douglass Hospital, where he tested positive.
That detainee is not showing any symptoms. The first COVID-19 positive detainee initially suffered a slight fever and scratchy throat, but those symptoms have cleared, Brackett said.
ICE holds some 75 inmates at the jail, most on violation for civil matters such as crossing a border illegally or overstaying visas. It also has held people seeking asylum. Since the ACLU filed the lawsuit, 14 ICE detainees have been freed.
”Consistent with federal partners, ICE is taking important steps to further safeguard those in our care,” ICE said in an email.
Since the onset of reports of COVID-19, ICE epidemiologists have been tracking the outbreak, updating prevention and control protocols, and issuing guidance for the screening and management of potential exposure among detainees, ICE said.