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30+ House Members Request Investigation Into Disinfectants Used at ICE Facilities Resulting in Sick Detainees

June 23, 2020
Press Release

(WASHINGTON, D.C.) –Congressman Jamie Raskin (MD-08) joined Reps. Vargas (CA-51), Takano (CA-41)  Kaptur (OH-19), Espaillat (NY-13), and Lowenthal (CA-47) and 30 colleagues in requesting that the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) Inspector General Joseph V. Cuffari open an investigation into the use of chemical disinfectants at Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) detention facilities which are resulting in detainees falling ill.

Reports state that the powerful disinfectant used by ICE is causing physical injuries including bloody noses, nausea, rashes, throat irritation, blisters, fainting, and difficulty breathing.

The lawmakers wrote: “Complaints from at least two detention facilities, one in California and the other in Florida, claim that detainees are experiencing adverse reactions caused by  'powerful chemical disinfectant' sprays being used to combat COVID-19."

They continued: “Since COVID-19 spreads through droplets of mucus and spit in the air produced by coughing or sneezing, chemical agents that irritate the throat or other respiratory functions can help the virus proliferate. Therefore, the inappropriate and dangerous use of toxic chemical disinfectants used in close proximity to people in detention undermines its stated intended function of outbreak management, which remains critical as facilities still report high numbers of confirmed cases, including the Glades County Detention Center with over sixty cases.”

The letter was also signed by Reps. Lou Correa (CA-46), Nanette Diaz Barragan (CA-44), Jesus "Chuy" Garcia (IL-4), Raul M. Grijalva (AZ-3), Nydia M. Velázquez (NY-7), Suzan K. Delbene (WA-1), Eleanor Holmes Norton (D-DC), Debbie Mucarsel-Powell (FL-26), Grace F. Napolitano (CA-32), Ilhan Omar (MN-5), John Garamendi (CA-3), Barbara Lee (CA-13), Tony Cárdenas (CA-29), Jason Crow (CO-6), Norma J. Torres (CA-35), Pramila Jayapal (WA-7), Albio Sires (NJ-8), Mark Pocan (WI-2), Jahana Hayes (CT-5), Ruben Gallego (AZ-7), Linda T. Sánchez (CA-38), Susan A. Davis (CA-53), Filemon Vela (TX-34), Judy Chu (CA-27), Gilbert R. Cisneros, Jr. (CA-39), Lucille Roybal-Allard (CA-40), Grace Meng (NY-6), Henry C. “Hank” Johnson Jr. (GA-4), Rashida Tlaib (MI-3), Ann Kirkpatrick (AZ-02).

The letter is supported by Freedom for Immigrants, Inland Empire Coalition for Immigrant Justice, and the Friends of Miami Dade Detainees, Bend the Arc: Jewish Action, Alianza Nacional de Campesinas, Inc., Detention Watch Network, Oxfam America, Amnesty International USA, Workers Center of Central New York, and United We Dream.

A copy of the letter is available here.

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