COVID-19 Cases at One Texas Immigration Detention Center Soared in a Matter of Days. Now, Town Leaders Want Answers

The South Texas ICE Processing Center in Pearsall, Texas. (Robin Jerstad for The Texas Tribune)

It was a historic occasion for the South Texas town of Pearsall when officials broke ground in 2004 on what would become one of the country’s largest immigration detention centers.

Not only would it help improve border security, U.S. Sen. John Cornyn said then, it would also bring employment to the small rural community, about 60 miles from San Antonio. Hundreds of good jobs for a region that desperately needed them.

But now, as the coronavirus pandemic continues to spread inside immigration detention centers, local leaders here in an extraordinary move have called on the company that runs the center, the GEO Group, to publicly explain itself. They say the company has not been transparent, and has failed to respond to emails and letters seeking answers to a simple question: What is the GEO Group doing to prevent the virus outbreak inside the privately owned facility from creeping into their community?

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