April 12, 2020

Harris Statement on Inhumane Conditions at Otay Mesa Detention Center

WASHINGTON, D.C. – U.S. Senator Kamala D. Harris (D-CA), member of the Senate Judiciary Committee and Senate Homeland Security & Governmental Affairs Committee, released a statement after reports of worsening conditions at Otay Mesa Detention Center in San Diego, CA. The center now has the most reported COVID-19 cases among any U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) detention facility in the country. In 2018, Senator Harris visited the Otay Mesa Detention Center.

“The horrifying conditions at Otay Mesa Detention Center are unacceptable. Every day that officials continue to lock up low-risk and vulnerable people is another day that people in U.S. custody along with countless facility and court personnel, legal representatives, witnesses, and family members are put at risk of a preventable death from a deadly virus,” said Harris. “We are in a moment of crisis that requires leaders to respond swiftly and humanely in the interest of public health. The Department of Homeland Security (DHS) has failed to take sufficient commonsense actions that would save lives. That needs to change—now.”

Last month, Senator Harris pressed the heads of DHS, ICE, and U.S. Customs and Border Protection (CBP) about procedures and protocols to slow the spread of COVID-19, including guidance for releasing people to protect vulnerable individuals and standards for holding private contractors accountable. She also called on DHS, CBP, and ICE leaders to remove vulnerable and low-risk detained individuals from immigration detention facilities on recognizance, bond, parole, or via enrollment of individuals in alternatives to detention.