Padilla, Feinstein Join Colleagues to Reintroduce Bicameral Legislation to Require COVID-19 Data Collection in Immigration Detention Facilities
The COVID-19 in Immigration Detention Data Transparency Act would fill information gaps by providing critical data about COVID-19 in immigration detention facilities.
WASHINGTON, D.C. – U.S. Senator Alex Padilla (D-Calif.), Chair of the Senate Judiciary Subcommittee on Immigration, Citizenship and Border Safety, and Senator Dianne Feinstein (D-Calif.) joined Senators Elizabeth Warren (D-Mass.) and Cory Booker (D-N.J.), along with Congressman Joaquin Castro (D-Texas), in reintroducing the bicameral COVID-19 in Immigration Detention Data Transparency Act, which would require immigration-detention facilities to collect and publicly report data about COVID-19 cases, vaccine distribution, and the preventative measures in place in these facilities.
“It’s no secret that COVID-19 has impacted immigration detention centers at an alarming rate,” said Senator Alex Padilla, Chair of the Senate Judiciary Subcommittee on Immigration, Citizenship and Border Safety. “We must establish accountability and transparency in reporting data to ensure detention centers are taking the necessary precautions to protect detained individuals. I’m proud to cosponsor this legislation that will help reduce the spread of COVID-19 in detention centers and protect the health and safety of everyone during this crisis.”
“There have been several notable outbreaks of COVID in detention facilities over the past year, including at immigration detention facilities. Without accurate and timely information about COVID in these facilities, the federal government and neighboring communities can’t take appropriate preventive and protective measures. Our bill would improve prevention efforts at these facilities, safeguarding immigrants, employees and the surrounding communities from the virus,” said Senator Dianne Feinstein.
COVID-19 presents serious risks to individuals in group settings, including in immigration detention. Tens of thousands of people are currently held in, or work in, facilities run by Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE), Customs and Border Protection (CBP), and the Office of Refugee Resettlement (ORR), as well as in immigration-detention facilities that have contracted with these agencies. Many detained people cannot take precautionary measures such as social distancing and wearing personal protective equipment due to their close confinement and the limited resources available to them. Currently, available information about the number of COVID-19 cases affecting individuals in immigration detention is inadequate for the purpose of stopping the spread of the virus and protecting detainees, staff, and nearby communities. Data regarding the vaccination process is also currently insufficient. Federal reporting standards are necessary to protect against the virus and mitigate outbreaks.
The COVID-19 in Immigration Detention Data Transparency Act provides public health experts, policymakers, immigration advocates, and the public with critical information about COVID-19 in immigration detention facilities. The bill creates reporting standards for agencies and facilities responsible for the custody and care of immigrant detainees.
The bill would do the following:
- Require ICE, CBP, ORR, and contract facilities to collect and submit COVID-19 data to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention on a weekly basis and regularly publish this data on their websites. The data will be stored in a manner that protects an individual’s privacy and may not be used against them in any future immigration proceedings.
- Require ICE, CBP, ORR, and contract facilities to collect and submit data on COVID-19 vaccination progress to the CDC on a weekly basis and regularly publish this data on their websites.
- Mandate that ICE, CBP, and ORR report to Congress on the protocols and practices in place at each detention facility under their jurisdiction, outlining the health standards, the standards of medical care provided to detainees, and the sanitation practices at each facility.
- Require ICE, CBP, ORR, and the head of each contract facility to report to Congress on the efforts made to ensure detained individuals have access to legal counsel.
- Ensure that detained individuals tested for COVID-19 have confidential access to all their test results and medical records, in their preferred language.
In addition to Padilla, Feinstein, Warren, Booker, and Castro, this legislation is also cosponsored by Senators Jeff Merkley (D-Ore.), Richard Blumenthal (D-Conn.), Edward J. Markey (D-Mass.), Tammy Baldwin (D-Wis.), Ron Wyden (D-Ore.), Bernie Sanders (I-Vt.), Amy Klobuchar (D-Minn.), Chris Van Hollen (D-Md.), Catherine Cortez Masto (D-Nev.), Jacky Rosen (D-Nev.), Mazie Hirono (D-Hawaii), Sherrod Brown (D-Ohio), and Bob Menendez (D-N.J.), and by Representatives Barbara Lee (D-Calif.), Sylvia R. Garcia (D-Texas), Juan Vargas (D-Calif.), Norma J. Torres (Calif.), and Jesús G. “Chuy” García (D-Ill.)
The COVID-19 in Immigration Detention Data Transparency Act is endorsed by AILA, Amnesty International USA, the American Public Health Association, Doctors for Camp Closure, Church World Service, Immigration Hub, Jewish Council for Public Affairs, Kino Border Initiative, Massachusetts Immigrant & Refugee Advocacy Coalition, the National Immigration Law Center, the National Immigration Project of the National Lawyers Guild, Union for Reform Judaism, RAICES, the Southern Poverty Law Center, and Vera Institute of Justice.
A one-pager on the bill can be found here.
Bill text can be found here.