May 19, 2020

DHS Inspector General to Examine ICE Detention Facility COVID-19 Policies and Practices

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

WASHINGTON – Today, U.S. Senator Tom Udall (D-N.M.) released 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.

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, Udall led a group of 26 Democratic senators in calling 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.

“There is a long history of disease outbreaks in detention facilities and this is the first step toward ensuring that sufficient policies and practices are in place to mitigate the spread of COVID-19 in ICE detention,” said Udall. “I am urging the DHS IG to be fully transparent and thorough in its review of the agency’s disease control procedures at detention facilities. And we expect the final report to include meaningful, unbiased recommendations that protect the health and safety of detainees, of the individuals who work at these facilities every day, and of the surrounding communities.” 

In addition to Udall the letter to DHS was joined by U.S. Senators Chuck Schumer (D-N.Y.), Richard Blumenthal (D-Conn.), Tim Kaine (D-Va.), Mazie Hirono (D-Hawaii), Kyrsten Sinema (D-Ariz.), Sherrod Brown (D-Ohio), Ed Markey (D-Mass.), Elizabeth Warren (D-Mass.), Cory Booker (D-N.J.), Jeff Merkley (D-Ore.), Tammy Baldwin (D-Wisc.), Dick Durbin (D-Ill.), Bob Menendez (D-N.J.), Ben Cardin (D-Md.), Amy Klobuchar (D-Minn.), Kamala Harris (D-Calif.), Catherine Cortez Masto (D-Nev.), Patrick Leahy (D-Vt.), Patty Murray (D-Wash.), Ron Wyden (D-Ore.), Jacky Rosen (D-Nev.), Dianne Feinstein (D-Calif.), Martin Heinrich (D-N.M.), Mark Warner (D-Va.), and Kirsten Gillibrand (D-N.Y.).

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