In March, one staff member tested positive for COVID-19 at a Houston contract detention facility. Since then, there have been 6 additional confirmed cases of COVID-19 among personnel working in ICE detention facilities, and 13 confirmed COVID-19 cases among detainees across the country. As COVID-19 continues to spread through our communities, the conditions in ICE detention facilities could endanger thousands of lives inside and outside of ICE facility walls, and potentially overburden nearby hospitals and health care systems already overwhelmed by COVID-19 cases.
As health professionals, we see firsthand that fear of local ICE enforcement deters immigrants in our communities from seeking out medical care, which at this time means crucial COVID-19 testing and treatment. On March 18, ICE released a statement that it “will exercise discretion to delay enforcement actions until after the crisis or utilize alternatives to detention, as appropriate.” ICE must clarify how they will curb local enforcement practices so that our immigrant patients are not afraid of punitive measures if they access care.
Each day this week, we ask health professionals across Texas to call our governor, senators, representatives, and regional ICE offices and demand they release vulnerable individuals detained in ICE custody and implement hygiene practices in ICE facilities that meet public health standards.