Where ICE reports COVID-19 cases

By Mohamed Al Elew and Patrick Michels | Sept. 10, 2020

U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement began publishing data on coronavirus cases in its detention centers in late March, soon after the agency reported the first case of COVID-19 among people in its custody.

These numbers provide a window into how the virus is spreading around ICE’s network of nearly 200 detention centers, but they also have serious limitations. For one, ICE doesn’t publicly track how case totals change over time. And while ICE reports how many total tests it has administered nationally, the agency doesn’t report how many tests have been conducted at individual facilities.

Reveal reporters have analyzed snapshots of ICE’s website, which were compiled by researchers at the Vera Institute of Justice. The charts below show how ICE reports of COVID-19 in detention facilities have changed over time.

Mohamed Al Elew can be reached at malelew@revealnews.org, and Patrick Michels can be reached at pmichels@revealnews.org. Follow Michels on Twitter: @PatrickMichels.

Mohamed Al Elew

Mohamed Al Elew (he/him) is a data reporter for Reveal. He received his bachelor’s degree in computer science at the University of California San Diego, where he was a research scholar at the Data Science Institute and served as editor-in-chief of The Triton, the school’s independent student newsroom. As an intern at CalMatters, he worked on an award-winning investigation into instruction lost at California public schools due to natural disasters and infrastructure failures. He is based in Lincoln, Nebraska.

Patrick Michels is a reporter for Reveal, covering immigration. His coverage focuses on immigration courts and legal access, privatization in immigration enforcement, and the government's care for unaccompanied children. He contributed to Reveal's award-winning project on indigenous land rights disputes created by oil pipelines. Previously, he was a staff writer at the Texas Observer, where his work included an investigation into corruption at the Department of Homeland Security and how the state's broken guardianship system allowed elder abuse to go unchecked. Michels was a Livingston Award finalist for his investigation into the deadly armored car industry. He has a bachelor's degree in journalism from Northwestern University and a master's degree in photojournalism from the University of Texas at Austin, where his work focused on government contractors grappling with trauma and injuries from their time in Iraq. Michels is based in Austin, Texas.