Crow, Garcia, and Escobar Introduce Legislation to Halt Transfer of ICE Detainees, Slow Spread of COVID-19 in ICE Facilities

November 20, 2020
Press Release
Media Contact: Robert Julien (DC): Email:; Cell: 202-227-0330

Washington, D.C. — Today, Representatives Jason Crow (D-CO) joined by Sylvia Garcia (D-TX) and Veronica Escobar (D-TX) introduced the End Transfers of Detained Immigrants Act, legislation which would immediately prevent Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) from transferring immigrant detainees between ICE facilities or to federal, state, and local prisons during the Coronavirus Disease 2019 (COVID-19) pandemic. The legislation also requires that if physical distancing inside ICE facilities is not possible, that individuals be released to ensure adherence to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) guidelines. The bill is a companion to Senators Michael Bennet and Jeff Merkley’s bill introduced earlier this year.

Over 20,000 immigrants are held in detention centers and prisons across the country and 100 immigrant detention facilities have confirmed cases of COVID-19. To slow the spread of the virus, CDC and public health experts have recommended that detention facilities and prisons limit transferring detained immigrants and incarcerated individuals between facilities except in unique circumstances. The bill follows Crow’s letter in May to the U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement calling for the immediate halt of transferring of detainees between ICE operated and contract facilities to meet contract minimums throughout the duration of the COVID-19 outbreak.

“In our district, we’ve seen firsthand how unnecessary detainee transfers between facilities can increase the risk of COVID-19 exposure and other communicable diseases. In May, I called on the Department of Homeland Security to end this practice because of the threat it posed to the health of detainees, staff, and our community’s public health,” said Congressman Crow. “This bill is driven by our community’s experience and commitment to immigrants in our care. If there are measures we can take to prevent the spread of the virus and protect our health, we should take them. This bill is as common sense as it is necessary in the fight against COVID-19.”

"In the middle of the pandemic, the Trump Administration should be concerned with crushing this virus, expanding our testing capabilities, and keeping everyone safe; instead, the Trump administration has been preoccupied with transferring detainees to and from ICE facilities that are unable to prevent the further spread COVID-19. These actions are putting migrants in harm's way of this deadly virus. This is why I am proud to join Rep. Crow in introducing the End Transfer of Detained Immigrants Act, which would halt the transfer of ICE detainees in an effort to keep them safe during the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic,” said Congresswoman Garcia.

“As our country grapples with the COVID-19 crisis that has claimed the lives of more than 250,000 Americans, ICE continues to fail to change its protocols and procedures to halt the spread of the deadly virus and protect detained immigrants and employees in detention centers across the country,” said Congresswoman Escobar. “The defiance of CDC recommendations and disregard of human life is appalling and I am proud to work with Congresswoman Crow on this critical legislation that would end the transfer of detainees for the duration of the pandemic, stop the spread of the disease, and uphold human dignity.”

"Since the outset of the COVID-19 pandemic, transfers to and from ICE prisons have directly led to COVID-19 outbreaks both within detention and our broader communities. Recently, transfers have become a tool for the White House to facilitate its mass deportation agenda ahead of a change in administration. A moratorium on transfers during the COVID-19 pandemic—combined with policies to dramatically reduce the number of people in detention and limit ICE enforcement—will save lives and strengthen the ability of our communities to combat COVID-19,” said Sarah Gardiner, Freedom for Immigrants Policy Director.

Since before the first confirmed case of coronavirus in Colorado, Crow has warned of the dangers of disease spread at immigration detention facilities. In early March, Crow called on ICE to grant humanitarian parole to all vulnerable individuals and those with non-violent immigration charges during the coronavirus outbreak. Throughout the COVID-19 outbreak, Crow’s office has continued to conduct weekly oversight visits through electronic requests.

The End Transfers of Detained Immigrants Act is endorsed by 63 national, state, and local organizations including Freedom for Immigrants; Detention Watch Network; American Immigration Lawyers Association; Church World Service; American Friends Service Committee; Alianza Americas; New York Immigration Coalition; Center for Law and Social Policy (CLASP); Coalition for Humane Immigrant Rights (CHIRLA); Immigrant Legal Resource Center (ILRC); Southern Poverty Law Center Action Fund; Southeast Immigrant Rights Network; Southeast Asia Resource Action Center; Asian Americans Advancing Justice | AAJC; Planned Parenthood Federation of America; T'ruah: The Rabbinic Call for Human Rights; Latin America Working Group (LAWG), and South Asian Americans Leading Together, among others.

The bill text is available HERE.


Congresswoman Sylvia R. Garcia was elected to the U.S. House of Representatives in November 2018, becoming the first Latina ever to represent the Texas 29th Congressional District. She serves on the House Judiciary and Financial Services Committees.