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Rep. Vargas Visits Otay Mesa Detention Center in Response to Growing Concerns of COVID-19 Spreading at Detention Centers

Apr 21, 2020
Press Release

Chula Vista, CA (April 21, 2020) – Today, Rep. Juan Vargas (CA-51), released the following statement after visiting Otay Mesa Detention Center to address the increase in COVID-19 cases within their facilities and alleged inhumane treatment of detainees.

“In the last couple of weeks, I led several letters demanding that the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) and Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) address alarming developments in COVID-19 cases at detention centers. I also expressed my concerns about alleged misconduct by ICE personnel, the detention center’s 'cohorting' practices, and requested that all nonviolent detainees be released.

“I found it necessary to arrange a tour of Otay Mesa Detention Center today, to observe if current conditions at the facility are causing acceleration to the spread of COVID-19 at their detention center. Unfortunately, what I saw verifies that crowded conditions at their facilities impede personnel from enforcing social distancing and other measures recommended by the CDC.  

“As we know, COVID-19 is extremely contagious, and in some cases fatal.  This is why I have, and will continue to, demand that ICE release all nonviolent detainees, giving priority to those with medical conditions, to mitigate the spread of COVID-19 at their facilities. Nonviolent detainees are not criminals, many of them are asylum seekers waiting for their day in court.  It is in the best interest of the general public, personnel, and detainees, to release nonviolent detainees and allow detention centers to properly implement social distancing guidelines recommended by the CDC.”

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.