Crow, Bennet, Colleagues in House and Senate introduce Bicameral Legislation to Halt Transfer of ICE Detainees, Slow Spread of COVID-19 in ICE Facilities

May 24, 2021
Press Release

WASHINGTON -  Today, Representatives Jason Crow (D-CO) joined by Sylvia Garcia (D-TX) and Veronica Escobar (D-TX) reintroduced the End Transfer of Detained Immigrants Act, legislation which would immediately prevent Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) from transferring immigrant detainees between ICE facilities or to federal, state, and local prisons during the Coronavirus Disease 2019 (COVID-19) pandemic. The legislation also requires that if physical distancing inside ICE facilities is not possible, that individuals be released to ensure adherence to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) guidelines.

Senator Michael Bennet (D-CO) introduced the Senate version of the legislation, alongside Senators Richard Blumenthal (D-CT) and Elizabeth Warren (D-MA). 

Over 20,000 immigrants are held in detention centers and prisons across the country and over 125 immigrant detention facilities have confirmed cases of COVID-19. To slow the spread of the virus, CDC and public health experts have recommended that detention facilities and prisons stop transferring detained immigrants and incarcerated individuals between facilities except in unique circumstances.

“In Colorado, we’ve seen the risks posed by unnecessary detainee transfer between facilities,  including COVID-19 exposure and other communicable diseases. That’s why I called on the Department of Homeland Security to end this practice early on in the pandemic, because of the threat it posed to the health of detainees, facility staff, and our community,” said Congressman Jason Crow. “This bill is driven by our community’s experience and commitment to immigrants in our care and is a commonsense and necessary step in the fight against COVID-19.”

“This pandemic has only exacerbated already existing concerns of poor and unsafe living conditions for detained immigrants, and we have seen the health risks that come with transferring immigrants in ICE custody between different facilities,” said Senator Bennet. “This legislation would no longer allow ICE to make unnecessary transfers to reduce the spread of the virus and protect our community as we continue to recover.”

 "COVID-19 continues to be a serious public health threat to individuals in congregate settings like immigration detention facilities, where many detained people are at the mercy of the facilities in which they're held and vulnerable to the spread of the virus. That is why we need the End Transfers of Detained Immigrants Act to stop these excessive and high-risk transfers because every person -- regardless of immigration status -- deserves to be safe from COVID-19," Senator Warren said. 

“Unnecessarily transferring detained people between immigration facilities risks spreading COVID-19 and threatens the health and safety of an already vulnerable population - not to mention the surrounding community where these facilities are located. Our legislation would put an end to the practice of endlessly, needlessly shuttling people from one detention facility to the next,” said Senator Blumenthal.

"After the previous administration's dehumanizing treatment of ICE detainees and as we recover amid the pandemic, we need to ensure we are not losing sight of the importance of keeping detainees at risk of COVID and other public health threats," said Congresswoman Sylvia R. Garcia. "This is why I am proud to join Rep. Crow and Rep. Escobar in re-introducing the "End Transfer of Detained Immigrants Act," which would halt the transfer of ICE detainees in an effort to keep them safe during and after the COVID-19 pandemic.”

“The COVID-19 public health crisis is not over yet, and detained immigrants and ICE employees in detention facilities remain at risk,” said Congresswoman Escobar. “The Trump administration is over and we must eliminate every one of their reckless policies. Because this practice continues, I am reintroducing this critical legislation to end the transfer of detainees for the duration of the pandemic, stop the spread of this deadly virus, and protect lives.”

Crow previously introduced the legislation in November, 2020. Since before the first confirmed case of coronavirus in Colorado, Crow has warned of the dangers of disease spread at immigration detention facilities. In March 2020, Crow called on ICE to grant humanitarian parole to all vulnerable individuals and those with non-violent immigration charges during the coronavirus outbreak.

 

###