ICE’s Management of COVID-19 in Its Detention Facilities Provides Lessons Learned for Future Pandemic Responses
ICE has taken various actions to prevent the pandemic’s spread among detainees and staff at their detention facilities. At the nine facilities we remotely inspected, these measures included maintaining adequate supplies of PPE such as face masks, enhanced cleaning, and proper screening for new detainees and staff. However, we found other areas in which detention facilities struggled to properly manage the health and safety of detainees. For example, we observed instances where staff and detainees did not consistently wear face masks or socially distance. In addition, we noted that some facilities did not consistently manage medical sick calls and did not regularly communicate with detainees regarding their COVID-19 test results. Although we found that ICE was able to decrease the detainee population to help mitigate the spread of COVID-19, information on detainee transfers was limited. We also found that testing of both detainees and staff was insufficient, and that ICE headquarters did not generally provide effective oversight of their detention facilities during the pandemic. Overall, ICE must resolve these issues to ensure it can meet the challenges of not only the COVID-19 pandemic, but future pandemics as well. We made six recommendations to improve ICE’s management of COVID-19 in its detention facilities. ICE concurred with all six recommendations.