Horsford, Cortez Masto, and Castro Conduct Congressional Oversight Visit at the Nevada Southern Detention Center

September 3, 2020
Press Release

Pahrump, Nev. — Today, Congressman Steven Horsford (NV-04), Senator Catherine Cortez Masto (D-NV) and Congressional Hispanic Caucus Chairman Joaquin Castro (TX-20) conducted a congressional oversight visit at the Nevada Southern Detention Center in Pahrump, NV in an effort to bring transparency to the U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) treatment of its detainees. Members toured the detention center to examine the conditions of the facility after reports of a growing number of COVID-19 cases. 

“As a Member of Congress, I have the duty to exert oversight powers over our federally contracted facilities and guarantee  faithful compliance of standards and policy. It is critical that ICE keeps the individuals in their custody safe, especially during a public health crisis,” said Congressman Steven Horsford. “I was particularly struck by the number of low-priority asylum seekers in custody, who pose no flight risk but are forced to remain in custody for long stretches of time. We must and can do better to ensure this population can receive alternatives to detention.”

“Crowded and unsanitary conditions at the detention center in Pahrump led to the worst outbreak of COVID-19 cases in Nye County in July. Even before the pandemic, I was deeply concerned that ICE and CoreCivic were not taking the health and safety of detainees and employees seriously,” said Senator Cortez Masto. “On this visit, I was able to see the conditions for around half of the detainee population-and it left me with more questions and underscored how broken our immigration system is. During my visit, I met with detainees who have been kept at this facility from eight months to three years. I’ve proposed legislation that offers alternatives to these types of inhumane detention practices. When the Senate returns next week, I’ll continue to advocate for critical reforms to our broken immigration system and to hold the Department of Homeland Security—and the federal contractors they employ—accountable for the conditions at their facilities to protect the health and wellbeing of detainees, and the larger communities they’re in.”

“Just last week, a person detained by ICE died of COVID-19 in my home state of Texas. Since the start of the pandemic, the Congressional Hispanic Caucus warned that outbreaks of coronavirus in ICE facilities were not only likely, but unfortunately would be deadly,” said Chairman Joaquin Castro (TX-20). “Like the rest of the Trump administration’s failed pandemic response, ICE has neglected to take the necessary precautions to protect life. This unmitigated threat poses a danger to both people in ICE custody and our federal workforce, and also local communities whose hospitals could be overwhelmed. I commend the leadership of Representative Horsford and Senator Cortez Masto for shining a spotlight on people vulnerable to this pandemic and working to protect everyone in Nevada.”

BACKGROUND:

Since the start of the pandemic, U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) has reported that 5,379 detainees have tested positive for COVID-19. Statistics regarding ICE employees have not been updated since June 18, 2020. The Nevada Southern Detention Center in Pahrump is operated by CoreCivic.