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House Members Urge Administration to Ensure Access to Free Telephone Calls for Detainees at ICE Detention Centers

May 19, 2020
Press Release
Bicameral letter also calls on Department of Homeland Security (DHS) to guarantee that communications with attorneys are confidential and unsupervised by detention center staff

(WASHINGTON, D.C.) – House Judiciary Committee Member Jamie Raskin (D-MD) joined Chairman Jerrold Nadler (D-NY), Zoe Lofgren (D-CA), Chair of the House Judiciary Subcommittee on Immigration and Citizenship, U.S. Senators Amy Klobuchar (D-MN) and Dick Durbin (D-IL), and 27 Senators and 51 House Representatives in sending a letter to the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) and Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) urging the Administration to ensure that all ICE detention centers quickly implement the agency’s recent commitment to provide 520 free phone call minutes per month for detainees during the coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic. The letter also calls on DHS to guarantee that any telephonic or remote communication with attorneys are confidential and unsupervised by detention center staff. 

The lawmakers wrote: 

“Crowded, unsanitary conditions in ICE detention put nearly 30,000 detainees, and detention center staff, at especially high risk of COVID-19 infection. According to ICE, there have been 1,073 confirmed cases of COVID-19 among those in ICE custody at 49 locations across the country. Forty-four ICE employees at detention centers have also tested positive for the virus. In order to help prevent further spread of the virus, ICE has suspended social and legal visits." 

. . . 

“The vast majority of those in ICE detention facilities—more than four out of every five—do not have legal representation in their removal cases, which continue to proceed during the pandemic. In order to effectively prepare for their immigration court cases, these detainees must communicate with people outside detention who have access to relevant evidence. For those who do have representation in their removal cases, access to meaningful and confidential phone communication with counsel is essential.”

The letter is endorsed by National Immigrant Justice Center, American Immigration Lawyers Association, Human Rights First, National Immigration Law Center, National Immigration Project of the National Lawyers Guild, United We Dream, and Leadership Conference on Civil and Human Rights.

The letter was signed by Senators Chuck Schumer (D-NY), Dianne Feinstein (D-CA), Patrick Leahy (D-VT), Sheldon Whitehouse (D-RI), Chris Coons (D-DE), Richard Blumenthal (D-CT), Mazie Hirono (D-HI), Cory Booker (D-NJ), Kamala Harris (D-CA), Ed Markey (D-MA), Tom Udall (D-NM), Kirsten Gillibrand (D-NY), Martin Heinrich (D-NM), Elizabeth Warren (D-MA), Kysten Sinema (D-AZ), Ron Wyden (D-OR), Tammy Duckworth (D-IL), Bernie Sanders (I-VT), Chris Van Hollen (D-MD), Catherine Cortez Masto (D-NV), Tim Kaine (D-VA), Michael Bennet (D-CO), Bob Menendez (D-NJ), Jacky Rosen (D-NV), Jeff Merkley (D-OR), Sherrod Brown (D-OH), and Mark Warner (D-VA).  

The letter was also signed by Representatives Nanette Diaz Barragan (D-CA), Karen Bass (D-CA), Donald S. Beyer Jr. (D-VA), Earl Blumenauer (D-OR), Salud O. Carbajal (D-CA), Joaquin Castro (D-TX), Judy Chu (D-CA), Lou Correa (D-CA), Jason Crow (D-CO), Susan A. Davis (D-CA), Val B. Demings (D-FL), Eliot L. Engel (D-NY), Veronica Escobar (D-TX), Adriano Espaillat (D-NY), Bill Foster (D-IL), Jesus G. “Chuy” Garcia (D-IL), Sylvia R. Garcia (D-TX), Raul M. Grijalva (D-AZ), Deb Haaland (D-NM), Alcee L. Hastings (D-FL), Pramila Jayapal (D-WA), Henry C. “Hank” Johnson Jr. (D-GA), Joseph P. Kennedy, III (D-MA), Derek Kilmer (D-WA), Barbara Lee (D-CA), Alan Lowenthal (D-CA), Carolyn B. Maloney (D-NY), James P. McGovern (D-MA), Grace Meng (D-NY), Debbie Mucarsel-Powell (D-FL), Joe Neguse (D-CO), Eleanor Holmes Norton (D-DC), Ilhan Omar (D-MN), Frank Pallone Jr. (D-NJ), Mark Pocan (D-WI), Ayanna Pressley (D-MA), Mike Quigley (D-IL), Cedric L. Richmond (D-LA), Linda T. Sanchez (D-CA), Albio Sires (D-NJ), Adam Smith (D-WA), Darren Soto (D-FL), Bennie G. Thompson (D-MS), Juan Vargas (D-CA), Filemon Vela (D-TX), Nydia M. Velazquez (D-NY), Debbie Wasserman Schultz (D-FL), Bonnie Watson Coleman (D-NJ), and Frederica S. Wilson (D-FL). 

Full text of the letter can be found HERE.

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