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Rep. Vargas Leads Letter Along with 24 Members of Congress Urging ICE to Respond to Concerns of COVID-19 Spreading at Detention Centers and Treatment of Detainees

Apr 23, 2020
Press Release

Washington, D.C. (April 23, 2020) – Today, Rep. Juan Vargas (CA-51), released the following statement after sending a letter, along with 24 other members of Congress, addressed to Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) and the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) concerning the increase in COVID-19 cases within their facilities and alleged inhumane treatment of detainees.

“I led a letter demanding that DHS and ICE address alarming reports of inhumane treatment of detainees. We expressed our concerns about alleged misconduct by ICE personnel, the detention center’s 'cohorting' practices, and requested that all non-violent detainees be released.

“We will continue pushing for the release on all non-violent detainees, giving priority to those with medical conditions. They haven’t committed a crime other than wanting a better life. It is in the best interest of the general public, personnel, and detainees, to release non-violent detainees and allow detention centers to properly implement social distancing guidelines set forth by the CDC.

“We are also concerned that the ‘cohorting’ practice has fatal flaws. Forcing detainees to be grouped in a cohort where they are potentially exposed to a COVID-19 individual, could accelerate the spread of COVID-19 and prove catastrophic.

“People are fearful during this time, particularly those in U.S. custody who are especially vulnerable to infection. Detainees face limited access to information about how to protect themselves and have limited ability to observe protective measures like social distancing.”

Vargas represents California’s 51st Congressional District which includes the southern portion of San Diego County, all of Imperial County, and California’s entire U.S.-Mexico border. Vargas was first elected to the U.S. House of Representatives in 2012 and is currently serving his fourth term in Congress. He serves on the House Financial Services Committee and House Foreign Affairs Committee.