FOIA Request Seeks Information About CBP’s Response to COVID-19

Wednesday, May 20, 2020

This Freedom of Information Act requestfiled by the American Immigration Council and the ACLU Border Rights Centerseeks the disclosure of information that will enhance the public’s understanding of steps U.S. Customs and Border Protection (CBP) has taken to protect detained individuals from an outbreak of COVID-19 and steps CBP will take to identify and treat detained individuals who are at risk of infection or who have become infected.

Individuals detained in CBP facilities are at risk of experiencing an outbreak of COVID-19. Large numbers of individuals confined together are not able to follow public health guidelines for maintaining a safe distance from each other to avoid the spread of COVID-19.

Stakeholders and public health officials have long been concerned about the potential for outbreaks of infectious illnesses in CBP facilities. In May 2019, CBP suspended intake at the McAllen Central Processing Center after 32 detainees tested positive of influenza. During the same period, there were 81 confirmed cases of flu amongst asylum-seekers whom CBP flew from Texas to facilities in San Diego, California. Outbreaks of scabies, shingles and chickenpox also have occurred among children held in a CBP facility in Clint, Texas.

Both doctors and Members of Congress have repeatedly called on CBP to administer the flu vaccine to those held in its facilities. At the time the FOIA was filed, more than two dozen CBP officers working on the southern border were reported to be infected with COVID-19, which underscores the importance of an effective COVID-19 plan to ensure that the disease does not spread to other employees and their families, as well as among those detained.

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