Report provides focused review of pandemic response at detention facilities in the latter half of 2021
OAKLAND – California Attorney General Rob Bonta today announced the release of the California Department of Justice’s (DOJ) third report on immigration detention facilities operating in the state. The new report provides a focused review of how the seven immigration detention facilities operating in California responded to the pandemic in the latter half of 2021, helping shed light on conditions of confinement and the facilities’ level of compliance with public health and safety measures. The report is intended to provide members of the public and policymakers with critical information about the conditions under which people in civil immigration detention in California live.
“Navigating our immigration system is never easy and it is clear from the report released today by my office that the pandemic added new layers of uncertainty for immigrants in federal custody,” said Attorney General Bonta. “Helping address some of that uncertainty is part of why our work under Assembly Bill 103 is so critical. By shining a light on conditions of confinement at immigration detention facilities still operating in our state, we’re able to provide crucial information that supports on-the-ground efforts to protect the safety and well-being of all of our communities. I hope that the transparency brought by this initiative empowers those with oversight authority in the federal government to take all necessary actions dictated by these findings to work towards the fairest and most humane immigration system possible.”
In response to growing concerns for the health and safety of people in civil immigration detention, the California Legislature enacted Assembly Bill 103 in 2017 to require DOJ to review and report on conditions of confinement at immigration detention facilities through July 1, 2027. These concerns remain ongoing with respect to the immigration detention facilities still in operation in the state. During the review process for this report, DOJ staff — with support from a team of correctional and medical experts — conducted inspections between October and December 2021 at each of the seven facilities. As part of the site visits, the DOJ team interviewed detainees and staff, reviewed records on site, and analyzed other documentation, including facility logs, operation schedules, and records detailing various policies, practices, and protocols related to COVID-19.
Some of the latest report’s key observations include:
- The number of civil immigration detainees significantly dropped at most facilities, while at the same time the average length of stay for those detained significantly increased;
- When detainees exhibited symptoms in a housing unit, the symptomatic detainees were generally tested within 24 hours. COVID-positive detainees were then isolated and treated or monitored;
- All facilities provided masks to detainees and required their use outside of the housing unit, but none enforced masking inside housing units;
- Detainee and staff vaccination rates varied widely, from 72% detainee vaccination rate and 70% staff vaccination rate at Adelanto to 36% vaccination for detainees and 58% vaccination for staff at Imperial. This was likely due to the static and lower population at Adelanto compared to the higher and more transient population at Imperial;
- All facilities, except Yuba, suspended social visitation in March 2020 and had not reinstated it at the time of DOJ’s site visits, more than a year and a half later, despite vaccine and testing availability and where non-contact or outdoor visitation space was available; and
- Access to religious services, classes, recreation, legal orientation, and other programs was significantly curtailed due to the pandemic, with different facilities providing widely different opportunities for programming.
A copy of the full report is available here. A copy of the executive summary is also available in Chinese, Punjabi, and Spanish.