U.S. Senators Ben Cardin and Chris Van Hollen (Both D-Md.) are calling on the U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) to answer critical questions on its plans to prevent the spread of COVID-19 among detainees currently being held in Howard and Worchester Counties.
“In Maryland, we have received troubling reports that Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) detainees are at grave risk,” wrote the senators. “Half of the ICE detainees tested nationwide thus far are positive for COVID-19 and the numbers are growing rapidly for both detainees and employees at detention facilities. Experts have described these facilities as a ‘tinderbox’ that could quickly overwhelm ICE medical facilities and impact surrounding communities.
“ICE does not appear to have a consistent plan to manage testing and treatment and is not following CDC guidelines to minimize risk …. There are many reports of inadequate masks, disinfectant and soap for detainees and employees alike. ICE continues to transfer detainees between facilities contrary to CDC guidance, risking the spread of the disease. Medical care is reportedly sub-standard at many of these facilities. Advocates continue to report on many medically vulnerable detainees…who have not been released, in addition to many individuals who have no criminal history and could be released on parole or placed in alternatives to detention,” they added.
The Department of Homeland Security (DHS) Inspector General (IG) recently agreed to a Congressional request to investigate ICE’s efforts to prevent and mitigate the spread of COVID-19 in its facilities. The objective of the planned IG review is to determine whether ICE Enforcement and Removal Operations (ERO) effectively managed the crisis at its detention facilities and adequately safeguarded the health and safety of both detainees in their custody and their staff.
The full letter and questions for ICE is below and at www.cardin.senate.gov/imo/media/doc/MD%20Delegation%20Letter%20to%20DHS%20on%20COVID-19%20in%20Immigration%20Detention%20Centers%20-%20Senate.pdf.