Sending Office: Honorable Alan S. Lowenthal
Sent By:

        Request for Signature(s)

DEADLINE: Noon, April 2nd

Endorsements: CHIRLA, SEARAC

Cosigners: Jesús G. “Chuy” García, James P. McGovern, Cedric L. Richmond, Eleanor Holmes Norton, Karen Bass


Dear colleague,

Please join me in a letter calling on ICE Deputy Director Matthew Albence to release medically vulnerable detainees from ICE facilities. This letter was drafted with inputs from the ACLU and the American Immigrant Council.

On March 24th, the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU), filed a lawsuit against ICE seeking release for detainees with pre-existing medical conditions. That same day, an individual tested positive for COVID-19 at an ICE facility in New Jersey
– this is days after a corrections officer at the same facility tested positive. On March 25th, the Southern Poverty Law Center (SPLC) filed an emergency motion for preliminary injunction seeking medical protections and release for individuals in
ICE custody.

COVID-19 is an extremely contagious disease, and the confined nature of detention facilities put both detainees and enforcement officers at risk for outbreaks. Today, a federal judge ordered the release of several immigrants and ruled that the government
has shown “deliberate indifference” to their conditions. ICE must follow and release all medically vulnerable detainees.

The letter also asks ICE several questions on steps they are taking for the safety of detainees, and to prevent outbreaks.

If you have any questions for would like to sign on, please email Ngoc Nguyen at The deadline for this letter is April 2nd at noon.

In the interests of time and safety, we will not be collecting signatures.



Alan Lowenthal

Member of Congress



Dear Deputy Director Albence,

As the threat of the COVID-19 pandemic grows, we urge you to immediately release at-risk individuals at U.S. Immigration and Enforcement (ICE) detention and family detention facilities, including those managed by local law enforcement or private contractors.

COVID-19, or the coronavirus, is extremely contagious. Around the country, governors and leaders of local jurisdictions have issued universal shelter-in-place directives, and public health officials have advised individuals to refrain from gathering in groups
larger than 10 people. During this public health emergency, the confined nature of detention facilities contradicts these federal recommendations and poses extraordinary risks for detainees as well as enforcement officers.

We are concerned that detainees who are older or have underlying medical conditions are at high risk of contracting this fatal disease while in federal custody. That includes all people who are over 50 years old and all people (of any age) who have an underlying
medical condition that increases their risks, including those who are pregnant, or who have a medical condition such as  lung disease or asthma, heart disease, chronic liver or kidney disease (including hepatitis and dialysis patients), diabetes, epilepsy,
hypertension, inherited metabolic disorders, stroke, developmental delay, a neurological condition that weakens the ability to cough, a weakened immune system, or blood disorders such as sickle cell anemia. ICE should immediately release these individuals
from its custody using parole authority under 8 C.F.R. § 212.5(b)(1) and all other available release options. Additionally, we urge ICE to heed CDC’s guidance generously and err on the side of releasing an individual who falls under this at-risk category.

Indeed, doctors contracted by the Department of Homeland Security’s (DHS) own Office of Civil Rights and Civil Liberties have raised the alarm to Congress that coronavirus represents an “imminent risk to the health and safety of immigrant detainees.”  Our
concerns are exacerbated due to the growing numbers of deaths in immigrant detention centers in FY20, which calls into question the enforcement of medical standards even before the coronavirus outbreak.

On March 24, 2020, ICE announced that an individual tested positive at a detention facility in New Jersey, just days after a correction officer tested positive at the same facility. Given that COVID-19 is extremely contagious, once an outbreak occurs it
will be hard to contain it. This is not only a public health crisis, but also a humanitarian crisis.

In light of the imminent spread of coronavirus within ICE detention centers, we request that you respond to the following questions, as soon as possible, and no later than April 13, 2020.

  1. What screening standards for detainees, employees, and visitors has ICE put in place to prevent an outbreak at a detention center?
  2. What steps, if any, has the department taken to ensure the safety of detainees and ICE personnel?
  3. Does ICE have necessary facilities to isolate at-risk individuals?
  4. What additional steps is ICE taking to ensure that its local law enforcement partners and private contractors are protecting the welfare of detainees in their custody?

Thank you for your time and consideration. We look forward to your prompt response.


Related Legislative Issues

Selected legislative information:HealthCare, Immigration

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