DHS Will Examine Coronavirus Policy in Detention After Senators Raised Concerns
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 – Senator Dianne Feinstein (D-Calif.) joined Senator Tom Udall (D-N.M.) to announce 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, 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.
In addition to Feinstein and Udall the initial letter to DHS was joined by 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.), Martin Heinrich (D-N.M.), Mark Warner (D-Va.) and Kirsten Gillibrand (D-N.Y.).
The letter from the DHS IG can be found here and below.
Dear Requesting Members of Congress:
Thank you for your April 28, 2020 letter asking us to conduct site visits to U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) facilities to identify and assess whether the facilities’ operations, management, standards, and conditions have sufficiently changed to address the threat of COVID19 to both the staff and detained population. You also requested that we examine and assess the sufficiency of policies and practices in place at each facility to mitigate the spread of COVID-19, and to respond to four specific questions in your letter as part of our review.
We are planning a review of ICE’s efforts to prevent and mitigate the spread of COVID-19 in its facilities. The objective of our planned 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.
In addition, we are currently conducting a remote inspection of U.S. Customs and Border Protection and ICE’s ability to manage the COVID19 pandemic at their facilities with respect to staff and the detainees in their custody. Our review will collect information through an electronic survey sent to every detention facility that asks, among other things, about the effects of the pandemic on staffing numbers and staffing contingency plans, the availability of personal protective equipment and other resources for staff, the ability to maintain proper hygiene among detainees, and the facilities’ testing protocols and testing capacity. We expect to issue a final report this summer.
Any additional COVID-related work that we initiate in the future will be posted both on our website, at https://www.oig.dhs.gov/reports/ongoing-projects, and on the Pandemic Response Accountability Committee’s website at https://pandemic.oversight.gov/oversight/ongoing-work.
Please call me with questions, or a member of your staff may contact Rachel Magnus, Office of External Affairs, at (202) 981-6000
Joseph V. Cuffari Ph. D.
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