Sending Office: Honorable Juan Vargas
SIGN-ON DEADLINE TODAY: Wednesday, April 8 COB
Current cosigners: Nydia M. Velázquez, Jesús G. “Chuy” García, Tony Cárdenas, Frederica S. Wilson
Recent news stories report that at least two Guatemalan men tested positive for COVID-19 after being deported from the United States. The same plane(s) that were used to deport these men were subsequently used to repatriate U.S. citizens and or LPR’s stuck
abroad. This raises grave concerns about the safety of U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) officers, U.S. citizens, the deportees, and the role that we all need to play in defeating this pandemic instead of helping to spread the disease.
If you would like to join Rep. Vargas and send the letter below to DHS and ICE officials, please email
email@example.com by COB Wednesday, April 8. Thank you
Dear Acting Secretary Wolf and Deputy Director Albence:
We are writing to you regarding news stories concerning Guatemalan deportees who tested positive for the novel coronavirus following their deportation from the United States. Due to the nature of our inquiry, your immediate attention and response to this
matter are urgently requested.
On March 30, 2020, it was initially reported that a 29-year-old Guatemalan man who was deported from the United States a week earlier, tested positive for COVID-19. On April 3, 2020, a 49-year-old Guatemalan man who was deported from the United States tested
positive as well. Also, it has been reported that three migrant children who also arrived in Guatemala aboard a deportation flight were placed under observation after they were found to be suffering from a severe cough, one of the symptoms of the virus. It
is unclear whether all three of these deportees traveled on the same deportation flight to Guatemala or two or three separate flights.
It is deeply concerning to learn that the same plane used to deported sick Guatemalans, was then used to repatriate stranded U.S. citizens in Guatemala to the United States. One of the most concerning features of COVID-19 is that symptoms may not appear
for up to fourteen days after exposure to the virus. This means the Guatemalan man likely exposed U.S. immigration officers, fellow deportees, and U.S. citizens on their return flight to the United States. This raises grave concerns about the safety of U.S.
Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) officers, U.S. citizens, the deportees, and the role that we all need to play in defeating this pandemic instead of helping to spread the disease.
As of April 7, 2020, there are 1,410,197 COVID-19 cases worldwide and over 81,014 deaths. The United States has 386,194 cases and over 12,246 deaths. Guatemala currently has 77 confirmed cases and three deaths. This situation and the decision to continue
the process of deportations anywhere during this pandemic is alarming. Furthermore, ICE should consider halting all deportation flights and use ICE Air to solely support the Department of State’s efforts in repatriating U.S. citizens, U.S. residents, and their
families. There continue to be thousands of U.S. citizens and their family members abroad, who are desperately trying to reach the United States. Repatriating U.S. citizens, U.S. residents, and their families should be the only priority for ICE Air.
For these reasons we write to inquire about the procedures ICE and the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) have put in place to ensure the safety of ICE officers, U.S. citizens, and deportees. Please answer the following questions:
- What procedures are in place for coronavirus testing of deportees?
- What procedures are in place for the process of deportations during this pandemic? Are there measures to prevent the spread of COVID-19 (i.e. ensuring self-isolation of deportees)?
- Has the Department of State or the U.S citizens on the return flight(s) from Guatemala been contacted and informed of their possible exposure to COVID-19? Please provide details.
- What efforts are being made to trace how the Guatemalan men that were deported contracted COVID-19 and who else they may have been in contact with while in detention?
- Has DHS or ICE been in communication with any federal health agencies regarding the deported individuals who tested positive for COVID-19? If so which agencies and when did this contact occur?
- What steps are taken to prevent the spread of COVID-19 during international deportation flights?
- How many return flights, that had originated as deportation flights, have been arranged to repatriate U.S. citizens and their families? On these flights, how many people were deported and how many were repatriated?
- What is ICE’s policy regarding the transportation and deportation of sick migrants?
- Given the severity of the pandemic, why has DHS or ICE not suspended deportations? Whose decision was it to continue these deportations?
We respectfully request a prompt reply as this matter is of great concern to us and the people of our districts. We ask that you provide this inquiry full and fair consideration that is consistent with all applicable laws, rules, and regulations. We look
forward to hearing further information about the steps taken to protect U.S. citizens, U.S. immigration officers, and deportees from the spread of COVID-19. Thank you for your attention.
Member of Congress
Cc: Mike Pompeo, Secretary of State
e-Dear Colleague version 2.0