Haaland Joins Call Urging Administration to Ensure Access to Free Telephone Calls for Detainees at ICE Detention Centers

May 21, 2020
Press Release
Bicameral letter also calls on Department of Homeland Security (DHS) to guarantee that communications with attorneys are confidential and unsupervised by detention center staff

Albuquerque, N.M. – Congresswoman Deb Haaland (NM-01) this week joined 29 Senators and 52 Representatives in sending a letter to the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) and Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) urging the Administration to ensure that all ICE detention centers quickly implement the agency’s recent commitment to provide 520 free phone call minutes per month for detainees during the coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic. The letter also calls on DHS to guarantee that any telephonic or remote communication with attorneys are confidential and unsupervised by detention center staff. 

In the letter the members write, “Crowded, unsanitary conditions in ICE detention put nearly 30,000 detainees, and detention center staff, at especially high risk of COVID-19 infection. According to ICE, there have been 1,073 confirmed cases of COVID-19 among those in ICE custody at 49 locations across the country. Forty-four ICE employees at detention centers have also tested positive for the virus. In order to help prevent further spread of the virus, ICE has suspended social and legal visits,” the lawmakers wrote.

“The vast majority of those in ICE detention facilities—more than four out of every five—do not have legal representation in their removal cases, which continue to proceed during the pandemic. In order to effectively prepare for their immigration court cases, these detainees must communicate with people outside detention who have access to relevant evidence. For those who do have representation in their removal cases, access to meaningful and confidential phone communication with counsel is essential.”

The letter is endorsed by National Immigrant Justice Center, American Immigration Lawyers Association, Human Rights First, National Immigration Law Center, National Immigration Project of the National Lawyers Guild, United We Dream, and Leadership Conference on Civil and Human Rights.

Full text of the letter is available here.

In April, Haaland called for the Department of Homeland Security, Immigration and Customs Enforcement, and Customs and Border Protection to release non-violent detainees after learning the Department has no serious plan to address overcrowding in detention facilities in order to minimize the spread of the novel coronavirus and free up sufficient space for effective quarantining. Shortly after that, reports that both an employee and migrant were confirmed cases of COVID-19 at the Otero County Processing Center. Haaland and the New Mexico delegation then raised concerns with Acting Director of U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) Matthew T. Albence over reports that ICE detention facilities in New Mexico are not fully prepared to manage the novel coronavirus 2019 (COVID-19) pandemic.

The letter was signed by U.S. Senators Amy Klobuchar (D-MN) and Dick Durbin (D-IL),Chuck Schumer (D-NY), Dianne Feinstein (D-CA), Patrick Leahy (D-VT), Sheldon Whitehouse (D-RI), Chris Coons (D-DE), Richard Blumenthal (D-CT), Mazie Hirono (D-HI), Cory Booker (D-NJ), Kamala Harris (D-CA), Ed Markey (D-MA), Tom Udall (D-NM), Kirsten Gillibrand (D-NY), Martin Heinrich (D-NM), Elizabeth Warren (D-MA), Kysten Sinema (D-AZ), Ron Wyden (D-OR), Tammy Duckworth (D-IL), Bernie Sanders (I-VT), Chris Van Hollen (D-MD), Catherine Cortez Masto (D-NV), Tim Kaine (D-VA), Michael Bennet (D-CO), Bob Menendez (D-NJ), Jacky Rosen (D-NV), Jeff Merkley (D-OR), Sherrod Brown (D-OH), and Mark Warner (D-VA), and U.S. Representatives Jerrold Nadler (D-NY), Zoe Lofgren(D-CA), Nanette Diaz Barragan (D-CA), Karen Bass (D-CA), Donald S. Beyer Jr. (D-VA), Earl Blumenauer (D-OR), Salud O. Carbajal (D-CA), Joaquin Castro (D-TX), Judy Chu (D-CA), Lou Correa (D-CA), Jason Crow (D-CO), Susan A. Davis (D-CA), Val B. Demings (D-FL), Eliot L. Engel (D-NY), Veronica Escobar (D-TX), Adriano Espaillat (D-NY), Bill Foster (D-IL), Jesus G. “Chuy” Garcia (D-IL), Sylvia R. Garcia (D-TX), Raul M. Grijalva (D-AZ), Deb Haaland (D-NM), Alcee L. Hastings (D-FL), Pramila Jayapal (D-WA), Henry C. “Hank” Johnson Jr. (D-GA), Joseph P. Kennedy, III (D-MA), Derek Kilmer (D-WA), Barbara Lee (D-CA), Alan Lowenthal (D-CA), Carolyn B. Maloney (D-NY), James P. McGovern (D-MA), Grace Meng (D-NY), Debbie Mucarsel-Powell (D-FL), Joe Neguse (D-CO), Eleanor Holmes Norton (D-DC), Ilhan Omar (D-MN), Frank Pallone Jr. (D-NJ), Mark Pocan (D-WI), Ayanna Pressley (D-MA), Mike Quigley (D-IL), Jamie Raskin (D-MD), Cedric L. Richmond (D-LA), Linda T. Sanchez (D-CA), Albio Sires (D-NJ), Adam Smith (D-WA), Darren Soto (D-FL), Bennie G. Thompson (D-MS), Juan Vargas (D-CA), Filemon Vela (D-TX), Nydia M. Velazquez (D-NY), Debbie Wasserman Schultz (D-FL), Bonnie Watson Coleman (D-NJ), and Frederica S. Wilson (D-FL).