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ICE virus prevention efforts to be reviewed

Copyright © 2020 Albuquerque Journal

The Department of Homeland Security’s inspector general will be reviewing U.S. Immigration and Custom Enforcement’s efforts to stop the spread of COVID-19 in its detention facilities, Sen. Tom Udall said Tuesday.

The New Mexico Democrat and other lawmakers were notified of the review by a letter from DHS Inspector General Joseph Cuffari on Monday.

“The objective of our planned review is to determine whether ICE Enforcement and Removal Operations effectively managed the crisis at its detention facilities, and adequately safeguarded the health and safety both of detainees in their custody and their staff,” the letter released by Udall said.

“I am urging the DHS IG to be fully transparent and thorough in its review of the agency’s disease control procedures at detention facilities,” Udall said in a news release. “And we expect the final report to include meaningful, unbiased recommendations that protect the health and safety of detainees, of the individuals who work at these facilities every day, and of the surrounding communities.”

The review is expected to be complete by the summer. Staffing numbers, staffing contingency plans, the amount of personal protective equipment, detainees’ hygiene, and testing protocols and testing capacity at ICE and U.S. Customs and Border Protection facilities will be reviewed, the letter said.

Udall was among 26 senators who sent a letter calling for the assessment of ICE detention facilities on April 26. That followed a letter on April 10 from the New Mexico congressional delegation to acting ICE Director Matthew Albence voicing concerns that ICE detention centers were not properly prepared to manage the coronavirus outbreak. Albence has not responded to the letter, spokespersons for Udall and Heinrich said.

At the time of the letter, an employee and a migrant at the Otero County Processing Center had tested positive for COVID-19. As of Monday, 43 have tested positive at the facility.

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