The Loudoun County Democratic Committee (LCDC) welcomes immigrants as future American citizens and believes all people, regardless of their immigration status, should be treated with dignity and respect. We also believe it is both immoral and unconstitutional for our government to act with deliberate indifference to serious risks to the health of individuals in their custody.
COVID-19 has been declared a global pandemic. As of May 7, 2020, globally, nearly 3.8 million people have contracted COVID-19 with more than 264,000 related deaths. The U.S. has confirmed more than 1.2 million cases with more than 73,000 related deaths. Virginia has confirmed over 21,000 cases with 769 related deaths. These statistics increase daily and likely under-represent the actual numbers due to limited testing.
The Governor of Virginia has declared a State of Emergency, issued a stay-at-home order, shut down nonessential businesses, prohibited public gatherings of more than 10 individuals, and enacted social distancing guidelines requiring people to maintain a six foot distance between themselves and non-household members.
COVID-19 is an extremely contagious disease which can even be spread by people who are asymptomatic. It can cause respiratory failure, permanent damage to many organs, and death. While it is more dangerous for older individuals and those with underlying medical conditions, it can also be lethal for healthy people of all ages. There are currently no vaccines nor proven cures for COVID-19.
Experts from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) and the World Health Organization (WHO) have said the only way to reduce the risk of severe illness or death from COVID-19 is to prevent people from contracting it. According to these experts, the most effective ways to accomplish this goal are through social distancing and improved hygiene.
Social distancing and improved hygiene practices are not possible in detention centers run by Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) because people live/sleep in extremely close quarters and often lack sufficient opportunities to use soap or hand sanitizers.
COVID-19 has already quickly spread in jails, prisons, and detention centers because of these conditions. ICE staff and detainees continually come and go from detention centers so they can easily spread COVID-19 to people in other facilities, as well as their families and the greater community.
In February, two Department of Homeland Security experts warned ICE that because of COVID-19, their detention practices were causing “an imminent risk to the health and safety of immigration detainees.” Over 3,000 health professionals have urged ICE to immediately release detainees because once an outbreak occurs at a detention center, it’s hard to contain and could result in overwhelmed local hospitals, impacting entire communities.
As of May 7, 2020, out of ICE’s approximately 30,000 detainees, only 1,528 have been tested and 753 tested positive. Both Virginia facilities where ICE has detainees (Farmville Detention Center and Caroline Detention Facility) have confirmed cases of COVID-19 among their detainees.
Due to limited medical beds and isolation rooms, the Farmville Detention Center was unable to contain an outbreak of the mumps in the summer of 2019.
Medical experts have said ICE cannot currently meet its own general standards which require detention centers to be “safe, secure and humane” because they are unable to comply with either the CDC’s guidelines or their own, COVID-19 recommendations.
Release is the only effective way to mitigate the spread of COVID-19 among current ICE detainees. ICE has discretion to release most detainees and use community-based alternatives to detention. Individuals subject to statutorily mandated detention, because they have committed certain criminal or terrorist-related offenses, will be more able to practice social distancing if ICE releases all other detainees;
ICE has a Constitutional duty to ensure the safety of people in their custody. It is also a violation of the due process rights of detainees when ICE acts with deliberate indifference to serious health risks posed to them while in its custody.
Therefore, be it resolved, the Loudoun County Democratic Committee, on May 7, 2020:
1. Urges ICE to immediately exercise its discretion to release all individuals who aren’t subject to mandatory detention based on the commission of certain crimes or terrorist-related activities.
2. Asks Governor Northam, Senators Kaine and Warner, and Congresswoman Wexton to make public statements urging ICE to immediately release all detainees (including those in the Farmville Detention Center and Caroline Detention Facility in Virginia) who are not subject to mandatory detention based on the commission of certain crimes or terrorist-related activities.