The Impact of COVID-19 on Immigration Detention

Fatma E. Marouf
Date of Publication: 
April, 2021
Source Organization: 

COVID-19 has spread quickly through immigration detention facilities in the United States. As of December 2, 2020, there have been more than 7,500 confirmed COVID-19 cases among detained noncitizens. This article examines why COVID-19 spread rapidly in immigration detention facilities, how it has transformed detention and deportation proceedings, and what can be done to improve conditions for detained noncitizens. Part I identifies key factors that contributed to the rapid spread of COVID-19 in immigration detention, which highlight important weaknesses in the immigration detention system. Part II then examines how the pandemic changed the size of the population in detention, the length of detention and the nature of removal proceedings. In Part III, the article offers recommendations for mitigating the impact of COVID-19 on detained noncitizens. These recommendations include using more alternatives to detention, curtailing transfers between detention facilities, establishing a better tracking system for medically vulnerable detainees, prioritizing bond hearings and habeas petitions, and including immigration detainees among the groups to be offered COVID-19 vaccine in initial phases of a vaccination program. (Julio Montanez for The Immigrant Learning Center’s Public Education Institute)


Marouf, F.E. (2021, April 8). The Impact of COVID-19 on Immigration Detention. Frontiers in Human Dynamics, 2:599222.