Three Texans in Congress exposed to COVID-19 while at detention center

Dilley, TX August 23, 2019: The entrance for the privately-run U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement's (ICE) South Texas Family Residential Facility outside Dilley.      Bob Daemmrich for The Texas Tribune
Dilley, TX August 23, 2019: The entrance for the privately-run U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement's (ICE) South Texas Family Residential Facility outside Dilley. Bob Daemmrich for The Texas Tribune

WASHINGTON – Three Texas members of Congress were potentially exposed to COVID-19 while touring a U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement detention facility in south Texas on Monday, but all have tested negative for the virus.

A Trump administration official notified congressional staffers on Friday that while touring an ICE facility in Dilley, Texas, Democratic U.S. Reps. Joaquin Castro of San Antonio, Henry Cuellar of Laredo and Sylvia R. Garcia of Houston were exposed to an ICE staffer who tested positive for the virus three days later.

"I was just informed that one of our ICE employees who met Mr. Castro, Ms. Garcia, and Mr. Cuellar at the South Texas Family Residential Center in Dilley, TX on Monday, June 22, 2020 tested positive for coronavirus disease 2019 (COVID-19)," ICE official Sean Hackbarth wrote to a Congressional Hispanic Caucus staffer.

"While the employee wore a mask for the entire duration of the visit and maintained the minimum social distancing of six feet, out of an abundance of caution, I'm providing notification to you can share it with the appropriate member offices and Hill personnel."

Hackbarth is a liaison between ICE and members of Congress.

The staffer at issue tested positive on Thursday and walked around with the members, but did not speak or have direct contact with them, according to Hackbarth.

An ICE spokesperson confirmed that report.

"U. S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) notified Members of Congress, who recently visited the South Texas Family Residential Center in Dilley, Texas, that an ICE employee tested positive for COVID-19," said Paige D. Hughes, an ICE spokesperson, said in a statement. "The Congressional delegation visited the facility on Monday, June 22, and ICE was notified of the employee’s positive results on Thursday, June 25."