Medical Advisors Visit ICE Facilities

The number of active COVID cases in Immigration and Customs Enforcement detention centers recently hit a new record. Infections have surged 848% since the start of the year to 2673 cases. This composes 12% of the detainee population and is a figure far beyond the previous peak experienced in May 2021.

This dramatic increase has alarmed health experts. Two DHS medical advisors recently raised concerns about the US government’s COVID response in immigrant detention centers. Scott Allen and Josiah Rich penned a letter to DHS Secretary Alejandro Mayorkas detailing their personal inspections of ICE facilities, in which they noted “inconsistent enforcement of mask use,” “inconsistent testing and surveillance,” and “failure to develop facility level infection control plans.” They urged Mayorkas to ensure that detained immigrants receive their vaccinations within two weeks of detention, as required by ICE protocols and to ensure that detained immigrants have access to booster shots, N95 masks, antiviral medicine, and monoclonal antibodies.

This is not the first time officials raised concerns about the Department of Homeland Security’s COVID response in ICE facilities. The DHS inspector general previously documented loose enforcement of COVID protocols in a lengthy report published in September 2021. To the date, ICE has reported 36,000 COVID cases, and the number may be even higher. ICE must commit itself to following the advice of scientific, medical, and public health experts to protect ICE detainees, ICE employees, and the United States.