CBS News recently published excerpts of interviews with female detained aliens, arguing that continued confinement puts their lives at risk. The piece opens with this assertion, “Like many of the roughly 34,000 immigrants currently held by ICE [U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement], the women feel powerless to protect themselves from the deadly contagion, which has already infected at least 72 detainees and 19 employees in more than two dozen facilities across 11 states.”

Apparently, CBS is as woefully ignorant of basic math as it is about U.S. immigration law. Any fifth grader could tell you that those numbers indicate the following: In the 11 states referenced, roughly 8 people in a detention setting have become infected with Novel Coronavirus. 

That is clearly a
cause for concern. No decent human being wishes to see anyone infected with a
potentially lethal virus, even lawbreakers. But is it a legitimate reason to go
releasing people who have defied our immigration laws, especially when we know
that they are likely to disappear, never to be seen again? To answer that
question using statistics as a guide, we need more data. And CBS didn’t bother
to provide any of that information.

With the inclusion of those omitted facts, let’s take a look at CBS’s assertions in context. As CBS points out there are roughly 34,000 detainees in ICE custody at present. In addition, there are approximately 6,100 ICE enforcement and removal officers. (Not all of those officers work in a detention setting. However, all of them go in and out of detention centers to process and transport immigration violators.) There are also an unknown number of U.S. Marshals Service and U.S. Public Health Service officials who regularly interact with immigration detainees.

ICE doesn’t
publish statistics on the number of staff employed by state and local detention
facilities with which it has contracts. Nor does it publish data regarding
staffing levels at the private detention centers it uses. However, let’s
assume, for the sake of argument, that combined state/local/private staffing is
equal to ICE’s and sits at around 6,100 people. (In reality, it may be larger
than ICE’s detention workforce).

That would mean there are roughly 46,000 people in the potential COVID-19 infection cohort that revolves around ICE detention. If there are currently 91 infections, the infection rate is roughly 0.2 percent of ICE’s detention-focused population (detainees and detention staff). The infection rate for the general population is – you guessed it – roughly 0.2 percent.

This content was originally published here.