May 19, 2020

Harris, Colleagues Announce DHS IG Will Examine ICE Detention Facilities COVID-19 Policies and Practices

Watchdog review comes at the request of Democratic Senators who raised concerns about ICE’s ability to protect staff and detainees from coronavirus outbreaks in ICE facilities

WASHINGTON, D.C. – U.S. Senator Kamala D. Harris (D-CA) on Tuesday joined Senator Tom Udall (D-NM) in releasing a letter announcing that the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) Inspector General (IG) will conduct a review of U.S. Immigration and Custom Enforcement’s (ICE) efforts to prevent and mitigate the spread of COVID-19 in its facilities. In March, Harris demanded answers on coronavirus preparedness in immigration detention facilities.

Following reports that ICE detention facilities with confirmed cases of COVID-19 were operating without processes to protect both staff and detainees such as providing protective gear, ensuring detainees have access to hygiene products, and practicing social distancing, Harris and Udall, along with 24 Democratic senators, called for the DHS IG to conduct a full assessment of ICE detention facilities nationwide to evaluate whether the facilities’ operations, management, standards, and conditions have adapted to address the threat of COVID-19 to both the staff and detainees.

“This is an important step in halting the spread of COVID-19 in detention facilities,” said Harris. “The virus does not care about anyone’s age, race, or immigration status. We have a duty to protect every person from coronavirus and I’m eager for the DHS IG to share its assessment of ICE’s practices and procedures to protect these individuals.”

In addition to Harris and Udall, the letter to DHS was joined by U.S. Senators Chuck Schumer (D-NY), Richard Blumenthal (D-CT), Tim Kaine (D-VA), Mazie Hirono (D-HI), Kyrsten Sinema (D-AZ), Sherrod Brown (D-OH), Ed Markey (D-MA), Elizabeth Warren (D-MA), Cory Booker (D-NJ), Jeff Merkley (D-OR), Tammy Baldwin (D-WI), Dick Durbin (D-IL), Bob Menendez (D-NJ), Ben Cardin (D-MD), Amy Klobuchar (D-MN), Catherine Cortez Masto (D-NV), Patrick Leahy (D-VT), Patty Murray (D-WA), Ron Wyden (D-OR), Jacky Rosen (D-NV), Dianne Feinstein (D-CA), Martin Heinrich (D-NM), Mark Warner (D-VA), and Kirsten Gillibrand (D-NY).

The full text of the letter from the DHS IG can be found here.