Coronavirus hits Arizona ICE detention center, hundreds of employees and migrants test positive: report

One officer at the Eloy Detention Center has died from COVID-19

Nearly half the employees and hundreds of immigrants at an Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) detention center in Arizona tested positive for coronavirus.

At the same time, detainees at Eloy Detention Center in Eloy are reporting a decline in living conditions due to staff shortages while staff members are blaming negligence and supply shortages for the virus' spread within the facility.

Since the pandemic began, at least 127 of about 300 employees at the detention center contracted by CoreCivic, a for-profit prison company that runs the facility, have tested positive for COVID-19. Some have returned to work after their recovery, according to a report by NBC News.

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A cactus and sign mark the entrance to the Eloy Detention Facility for illegal immigrants on July 30, 2010 in Eloy, Arizona. (Photo by John Moore/Getty Images)

A cactus and sign mark the entrance to the Eloy Detention Facility for illegal immigrants on July 30, 2010 in Eloy, Arizona. (Photo by John Moore/Getty Images)

Staff members have complained that the facility pressured workers to stay on the job even if they were exhibiting symptoms of coronavirus and told them to ration protective gloves and masks and water down cleaners instead of using alcohol-based solutions to sanitize surfaces, a former Eloy Detention Center guard told Arizona Central.

In June, a senior correctional officer died from possible complications linked to the virus.

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At the same detention facility, 222 immigrants have tested positive for the virus, as they are held in cells and close quarters, which makes stopping the spread of the virus more difficult.

Migrants have told their lawyers they are kept in their cells for prolonged periods throughout the day because of staffing shortages that make it difficult for the facility to monitor them, NBC reported.

"Our clients have reported being locked in their cells for over 23 hours a day, often having to choose between showering and calling their lawyers or families," the Florence Immigrant & Refugee Rights Project – a nonprofit social justice group – said on Twitter, referring to Eloy.

Lawyers from the Florence Project and other activist groups are pushing for migrants to be released from the facilities due to the threat of coronavirus.

Most immigrants at the center are awaiting deportation or removal and return to their home countries, while some are being kept at the facility while their immigration cases are being reviewed.

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"It would seem that detainees may be using the word 'lockdowns' to refer to the facility's cohorting procedures, which is intended to prevent the spread of infection. During cohorting, there is no loss of privileges or activities. Detainees have never been confined to their cells for 23 hours," a CoreCivic spokesman said, according to NBC.