(WASHINGTON, D.C.)—Rep. Carolyn B. Maloney, the Chairwoman of the Committee on Oversight and Reform, and Rep. Jamie Raskin, the Chairman of the Subcommittee on Civil Rights and Civil Liberties, sent a letter to the Department of Homeland Security and Immigration and Customs Enforcement regarding the Administration’s inability to prevent the now deadly spread of coronavirus in detention centers housing detainees.
“Despite our repeated attempts to secure information, ICE has failed to fully respond to our requests, casting serious doubt on its preparedness for this crisis,” wrote Maloney and Raskin. “ICE has failed to take this crisis seriously, and three people—that Congress and the American people know about—have now died. At each step of the way, the agency has waited rather than acted, prioritizing continued detention of thousands of non-violent detainees regardless of the life-and-death consequences for immigrants, employees, contractors, or their families.”
Today’s letter is the Committee’s third request for information about DHS’s coronavirus plans for detention facilities. Chairs Maloney and Raskin wrote letters on March 11, 2020, and April 7, 2020, before ICE Acting Director Albence and CBP Acting Commissioner Morgan briefed the Committee on how DHS is addressing coronavirus risks in immigration detention facilities on April 17, 2020.
The letter found that ICE is:
- contradicting CDC guidance on “cohorting,” transfers, social distancing and personal protective equipment;
- misleading the Committee on its review of detainee population;
- unnecessarily detaining medically vulnerable immigrants;
- facing an infection rate higher than any state with no contingency plan; and
- repeatedly failing to provide critical information to the Committee.
“ICE’s actions are inconsistent with its public statements and guidance from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), leading to conditions far more dangerous than those faced by the general public,” added Maloney and Raskin.
The Committee requests that ICE provide all previously requested information by May 21, 2020, and schedule a briefing and documents relating to the death of Carlos Ernesto Escobar Mejia by May 22, 2020.