U.S. Rep. Jason Crow has introduced a bill to ban transfers of immigrant detainees during the COVID-19 pandemic in response to concerns about transmission of the deadly disease.
“In our district, we’ve seen firsthand how unnecessary detainee transfers between facilities can increase the risk of COVID-19 exposure and other communicable disease,” said Crow. A privately-operated U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement detention center is located in his Aurora-centered district. Last week, Westword reported that in addition to outbreaks among employees and ICE detainees, those in custody of the U.S. Marshals Service had also contracted the novel coronavirus.
“This bill is driven by our community’s experience and commitment to immigrants in our care. If there are measures we can take to prevent the spread of the virus and protect our health, we should take them," Crow added.
The bill is similar to one that U.S. Sen. Michael Bennet sponsored in September. At the time, The Washington Post had reported that ICE flew detainees to a facility near the nation’s capital as a pretext for transporting riot-control personnel to respond to racial justice protests. More than 300 detainees tested positive for COVID-19 following the inmate transfer.
Crow’s legislation does permit medical professionals to authorize detainee moves if there is a COVID-19 test and quarantine. If a detention center cannot maintain distancing between inmates, the director must review and release individuals who are medically vulnerable or otherwise eligible.