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May 30, 2020

Rep. Kirkpatrick, Colleagues Send Letter to ICE Regarding Migrant Detention Facilities and Treatment During COVID-19 Pandemic

Includes Letter From Detainees About Inhumane Conditions at La Palma

(Tucson, AZ) – Rep. Kirkpatrick, Rep. Bennie G. Thompson (MS), Chairman of the Committee on Homeland Security and Arizona Reps. Grijalva, Gallego, and Stanton sent a letter to the U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) Deputy Director, Matthew T. Albence raising deep concerns about the conditions within migrant detention centers in Arizona, specifically the La Palma, Eloy and Florence centers. The letter sent to ICE from the Representatives also includes an attached letter from detainees at La Palma that outline the horrendous experiences at the correctional center in Eloy.

The Representatives write, “It has come to our attention that detainees are confined to “pods” at the La Palma center in order to control the spread of COVID-19 and are therefore unable to attend their hearings in person with a judge. It is our understanding that judges can grant a “waiver of personal presence” for a detainee who cannot attend their hearing in person. However, we recently learned that at the La Palma Detention Center, Judge John Davis, has decided not to grant these waivers. As a result, detainees are denied a hearing and denied due process. This is unacceptable.”

They Continue, “We have also heard alarming accounts about the lack of nutrition, sanitation and medical care within these facilities. Unfortunately, conditions within detention centers have a long history of being severely dangerous. As of May 23rd, 75 positive cases of COVID-19 have been identified at the La Palma Detention Center alone. Additionally, we have received a letter from a group of more than 50 detainees describing their inadequate living conditions at the La Palma center. We have enclosed it here for you to read. The conditions they describe are appalling. Please note that the situation at La Palma is escalating. In the detainee letter we are told that a hunger strike is taking place in La Palma.

“Based on these alarming reports, we have serious concerns that these facilities do not have the ability to keep detainees safe during this pandemic, and they are not adhering to Centers for Disease Control (CDC) guidelines. As we understand, current detention conditions do not allow for detainees to practice social distancing guidelines, which increase the risk of transmission of the virus among detainees and staff. Many of us have called on ICE to end the flow of new people into prisons and detention facilities and to release detainees on humanitarian parole for this reason, specifically, vulnerable populations such as pregnant women, individuals with disabilities, LGBTQ individuals, and those with severe illnesses,”

They close the letter stating, “It is inhumane to prevent hearings for possible release while forcing individuals to stay in unsanitary and unsafe conditions during this pandemic. We urge you to implement these recommendations and look forward to hearing from you very soon.”

The text of the letter and attachment of detainee letter can be found HERE.

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