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37 Immigrant Children at Chicago-Area Shelters Have COVID-19


Protesters call for officials to release people from jails, prisons, and immigration detention centers in response to the coronavirus, as they demonstrate outside City Hall in Philadelphia, Monday, March 30, 2020.

Dozens of immigrant children in U.S. custody and living in three Chicago-area shelters have tested positive for COVID-19, officials said Tuesday.

The Chicago-based Heartland Alliance operates shelters where children in the Department of Health and Human Services' Office of Refugee Resettlement's custody wait to be released to a relative or legal guardian. By Tuesday, 37 of 69 minors were positive, according to a statement.

Heartland officials called their prognosis "very good," but declined to offer specifics on their medical treatment.

The Office of Refugee Resettlement, tasked with the custody and care of immigrant children caught traveling alone across the U.S.-Mexico border, said Tuesday that 21 children in Illinois and Texas shelters are currently COVID-19 positive and six others recovered. None required hospitalization. They couldn't immediately explain the discrepancy with Heartland's data, saying they were still compiling figures.

Federal officials have suspended placing children in states including New York and Washington over concerns with the outbreak.

Officials with Heartland, which stopped taking new children last month, tested all children, added nurse practitioners and staff members are taking precautions like wearing gloves and masks.

Heartland's National Immigrant Justice Center called for expediting family reunification, the subject of a court battle, saying in a statement they were "deeply concerned" about children and staff. Federal officials said Tuesday they're following federal safety guidelines, arguing the children's safe release "to suitable sponsors may take longer" given the pandemic.

There are about 2,500 children in the office's custody.

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