Vigil honors man who died of COVID-19 while in ICE custody in California

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SAN DIEGO (Border Report) — On Saturday night, about two dozen people turned out with flowers, candles and signs for a vigil in honor of a man they had never met before.

Carlos Ernesto Escobar arrived at the Otay Mesa Detention Center in January. The facility is located about 30 miles southeast of Downtown San Diego.

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While in detention, the 57-year old Escobar caught COVID-19 and had to be hospitalized in late April when he was placed on a ventilator. About 10 days later, he was pronounced dead.

Escobar was the first Immigration and Customs Enforcement detainee to die after being infected with the coronavirus while in custody.

Following his death, community activists like Pedro Rios, of the American Friends Service Committee, were quick to denounce Escobar’s death.

“We are saddened and outraged that a person detained at the Otay Mesa Detention Center in San Diego County has died with complications related to COVID-19,” Rios said. “For months, advocates have been raising concerns that the detention facility would exacerbate deadly conditions for those it detains.”

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According to Immigration and Customs Enforcement, 139 detainees have come down with the virus.

Others believe the number of detainees who have been infected is much higher.

Dozens of employees and medical staff at the detention center have also tested positive.

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People who attended Escobar’s vigil said he won’t be the last to die unless things change at the facility.

“In a place like this prison, there’s no social distancing, it’s impossible to do we knew this was going to happen,” Jeff Valenzuela said. “As long as people remain locked up inside this won’t be the last person to die.”

In a statement last week to Border Report, CoreCivic said it had been in close contact with ICE about the Escobar’s health and immediately notified them of the his passing.

“We are deeply saddened to report that a detainee who had been hospitalized from our Otay Mesa Detention Center has passed away Wednesday morning,” said CoreCivic spokesman Ryan Gustin, adding that the exact cause of death is pending an official determination. “We extend our heartfelt sympathy to this individual’s loved ones.”

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