We surveyed U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) detention facilities from April 8-20, 2020 regarding their experiences and challenges managing COVID-19 among detainees in their custody and among their staff. The facilities that responded to our survey described various actions they have taken to prevent and mitigate the pandemic’s spread among detainees. These actions include increased cleaning and disinfecting of common areas, and isolating new detainees, when possible, as a precautionary measure. However, facilities reported concerns with their inability to practice social distancing among detainees, and to isolate or quarantine individuals who may be infected with COVID-19. Regarding staffing, facilities reported decreases in current staff availability due to COVID-19, but have contingency plans in place to ensure continued operations. The facilities also expressed concerns with the availability of staff, as well as protective equipment for staff, if there were an outbreak of COVID-19 in the facility. Overall, almost all facilities stated they were prepared to address COVID-19, but expressed concerns if the pandemic continued to spread. At the time of our survey, 23 facilities reported having detainees who had tested positive for COVID-19; this number had risen to 48 facilities as of May 11, 2020.
Early Experiences with COVID-19 at ICE Detention Facilities