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Rep. Vargas’ Statement on First Reported COVID-19 Related Death in ICE Custody at Otay Mesa Detention Center

May 6, 2020
Press Release

San Diego, CA (May 6, 2020) – Rep. Juan Vargas (CA-51) released the following statement after the first reported coronavirus-related death in ICE custody at the Otay Mesa Detention Center. 

"I am appalled with the tragic news of the first coronavirus-related death in ICE Custody. ICE had plenty of time to implement the proper measures, and now, we are facing the worst possible outcome. This comes after over a month of my colleagues and I demanding that ICE and CoreCivic do everything in their power to properly implement social distancing and release nonviolent detainees to help implement measures recommended by the CDC. 

"The CDC recommended implementing social distancing on a national level mid-March. On April 3rd, we learned about initial COVID-19 cases at Otay Mesa Detention Center. Since then, I have repeatedly demanded that ICE release all nonviolent detainees, giving priority to those with a medical condition.

"I urge ICE and CoreCivic to act now. It is in the best interest of personnel, detainees, and surrounding communities that they do everything possible to help prevent additional COVID-19 deaths and cases. 

"Many of the detainees in their custody are asylum seekers who came to our nation for a better life. Detention in our country should not come with a death sentence. This is why I will continue pushing for the release of nonviolent detainees to help combat coronavirus-related deaths in ICE custody."

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.