Crow Introduces Bill to Require Congressional Access to ICE Detention Facilities

May 20, 2019
Press Release

The Public Oversight of Detention Centers (POD) Act would provide members of Congress access to immigration detention centers within 48 hours of request

POD Act introduced after Crow was denied entry to Aurora’s ICE detention site after a series of viral outbreaks

In 2019 alone, ICE facilities have had outbreaks in Colorado, Louisiana, and Texas

WASHINGTON - Today, Rep. Jason Crow (CO-06) alongside Reps. Rosa DeLauro (CT-03), Sylvia Garcia (TX-29), and Hank Johnson (GA-04) introduced legislation to prevent the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) and Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) from blocking members of Congress from access to detention centers that house immigrants and migrant children. The Public Oversight of Detention Centers (POD) Act would promote transparency and accountability by allowing members of Congress to gain access to detention facilities within 48 hours of request. The bill would provide entry to both juvenile and adult facilities. To date, there are over 200 immigration detention facilities with the detention bed number being a record high of 49,000.

The POD Act follows multiple instances of Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) and the Office of Refugee Resettlement (ORR) blocking members of Congress from entering detention facilities to conduct oversight.

Denver Post: Jason Crow denied entry in surprise visit to Aurora’s ICE detention site amid another rash of illnesses [February 2019]

Miami Herald: Trump blocks three Florida congresswomen from visiting Homestead child detention center [April 2019]

USA Today: Senator blocked from entering detention center housing migrants' kids [June 2018]

Crow’s bill follows a letter he led last month urging the inclusion of similar language to the Fiscal Year (FY) 2020 Homeland Security Appropriations Bill, to ensure timely access to immigration detention centers by members of Congress. After introduction, the POD Act will be referred to both the House Judiciary and Homeland Security Committees for further action.

In Colorado 6th’s district, ICE repeatedly denied Crow access to a GEO Group-run facility in Aurora, including blocking the Congressman from attending a press tour. Crow finally received a tour over three weeks after his initial visit and request on February 20th. The Aurora facility has come under fire for multiple reports of poor conditions and disease outbreaks. To date, detention centers in Texas and Louisiana have also reported similar disease outbreaks resulting in quarantines and a loss of due process.

"When my office learned of poor conditions and health issues at an ICE detention center in Aurora, we immediately sought access to the facility to conduct oversight. We were denied access not once but three times. Since then, we learned of infectious disease outbreaks and conditions. The agency’s lack of transparency and accountability put the health of the public and detainees at risk,” said Crow. "We're seeing similar situations occur across the country fueled by ICE's culture of secrecy. I'm proud to introduce the POD Act which will allow members of Congress to conduct the oversight that this administration refuses to do and introduce transparency into a broken system. People are dying and we can't wait a moment longer."

"The Colorado Immigrant Rights Coalition commends Representative Crow's leadership for introducing the Public Oversight of Detention Center Act. Members of Congress should be able to conduct oversight visits of private immigrant detention facilities to ensure the humane treatment of individuals being detained. It is a basic human right to have access to medical and mental health services - any institution funded by dollars from our federal budget should be held accountable to ensure humane and fair treatment of individuals in their care. Congressional oversight with a minimal notification of 48 hours will ensure long-overdue accountability of detention centers here in Aurora and across the country,” said Nicole Melaku, Executive Director of Colorado Immigrant Rights Coalition (CIRC).

The POD Act is endorsed by Project on Government Oversight, UnidosUS, National Council of Jewish Women, Inc., Church World Service, Kids in Need of Defense (KIND), National Immigrant Justice Center, NETWORK: Advocates for Justice, Immigrant Legal Resource Center, Colorado People’s Alliance (COPA), Colorado Immigrant Rights Coalition, Village Exchange Center, Rocky Mountain Immigrant Advocacy Network (RMIAN), and ECDC African Community Center.

Text of the POD Act can be found here.