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NH Delegation Expresses Concern About DHS Detention Facilities Amid COVID-19 Crisis

Delegation Calls on Department to Explain Review Process for Case Release & Address Testing and Safety Concerns

(Washington, DC) – Today, U.S. Senators Jeanne Shaheen (D-NH) and Maggie Hassan (D-NH) and Representatives Annie Kuster (NH-02) and Chris Pappas (NH-01) called on Acting Secretary of Homeland Security Chad Wolfe to answer questions about the spread of COVID-19 at immigration detention facilities, including one in New Hampshire. 

In a letter, the delegation wrote, “As you know, in our state of New Hampshire, the Strafford County Department of Corrections has a contract with U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) to hold immigrant detainees. We understand that the local facility has taken a number of steps to minimize the spread of COVID-19, including halting the transfers of individuals from facilities that have had positive COVID-19 cases, establishing a quarantine unit, testing detainees and staff, regularly screening staff and utilizing negative-pressure cells. We appreciate the transparency of the Strafford County Department of Corrections, both with our Congressional offices and with the public, during this public health emergency. However, despite these measures, two individuals have tested positive at this facility, and we are concerned about the continued infection risk faced by detainees and staff.” 

Highlighting reports of high rates of COVID-19 infections at detention facilities nationally, the delegation continued, “As of early June, more than half of the detained individuals who had been tested for COVID-19 had tested positive. As of June 29, ICE reports a total of 2,675 detainees who have tested positive for COVID-19. These alarming statistics demonstrate the continued dangers this pandemic poses for detainees, facility staff and the communities where facilities are located.”

The delegation closed their letter with a series of questions for Acting DHS Secretary Wolf to address, including the criteria and eligibility for detainees’ release, an update on how many individuals have been released due to COVID-19 and additional information on steps ICE is taking to ensure DHS-contracted facilities have access to adequate testing and resources. 

The full text of the letter is available for download here.