Rep. García, U.S. Senators Durbin, Duckworth, and Rep. Underwood Send Letter to Chicago ICE Field Director Over Mumps Outbreak in McHenry County Jail

September 25, 2019
Press Release

Washington, DC - Congressman Jesús “Chuy” García (IL-04), U.S. Senators Dick Durbin (D-IL), and Tammy Duckworth (D-IL), and Rep. Lauren Underwood (IL-14) sent a letter to the Acting Field Director of Chicago’s Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) Office expressing their grave concerns over the recent mumps outbreak in the McHenry County Jail. According to the Centers for Disease Control (CDC), there have been 931 cases of mumps in a total of 57 Customs and Border Protection (CBP) and ICE detention facilities within the last year, including six in McHenry County Jail between June and September of this year.

“These reports are disturbing and describe inhumane practices, inconsistent with the values of our country. The mumps outbreak is a direct result of the inadequate health care detainees receive and of the overcrowded, unsanitary environment at ICE and CBP detention centers. These conditions will contribute to future outbreaks of other illnesses and put lives at risk,” said Congressman García.

In the letter, the lawmakers wrote: “The recent mumps outbreak in the McHenry County Jail signals significant risk factors for other infectious illnesses including influenza. (…) health officials have echoed grave concerns about unsafe and unsanitary conditions that detained migrants are subjected to in ICE facilities. If left unaddressed, these conditions will inevitably contribute to future outbreaks of the mumps, influenza, and other communicable diseases.”

The letter urges a thorough review of current policies, procedures and administration of medical treatment at the McHenry County Jail and other detention facilities operated by ICE or CBP. The letter also requests a detailed report of all mumps cases in McHenry County Jail. 

Full text of the letter is below and is also available at this link.

Dear Mr. Zamora:

We are writing to express our serious concern over the recently reported cases of mumps in McHenry County Jail. According to a report last month by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), there have been 931 cases of mumps in a total of 57 Customs and Border Protection (CBP) and Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) detention facilities in 19 states in the last year.  According to the McHenry County Health Department, six cases have been reported between June and September of this year in McHenry County Jail, all of which are individuals under custody of ICE.

We strongly urge you to evaluate current policies and procedures to mitigate any further spread of communicable diseases and infections.  Any failure to provide detainees with access to needed health care is inexcusable and irresponsible, placing entire communities at risk.

The CDC says immunization is the most effective means to prevent mumps transmission. The CDC also lists mumps as a contagious disease and recommends that a person with mumps should limit their contact with others. The recent mumps outbreak in the McHenry County Jail signals significant risk factors for other infectious illnesses including influenza. Separately, health officials have echoed grave concerns about unsafe and unsanitary conditions that detained migrants are subjected to in ICE facilities. If left unaddressed, these conditions will inevitably contribute to future outbreaks of the mumps, influenza, and other communicable diseases. In response to these concerns, we ask that you provide answers to the following questions.

  1. Please provide a detailed report of all mumps cases in McHenry County Jail, including the total number of cases and the ages of individuals affected.
  2. How do you plan to combat the spread of mumps and other communicable diseases and infections, such as shingles, pneumonia, and chickenpox, among detainees?
  3. Will McHenry County Jail be administering flu shots to all individuals within its custody this season? Please describe in detail the facility’s treatment and prevention policies in place for migrant illness and vaccinations.
  4. How many vaccinations for the mumps did McHenry County Jail facilitate for those in its custody over the last year? Are all employees, grantees, and contractors who work at McHenry County Jail vaccinated for the mumps?
  5. Using the average during the last calendar year, how much time lapsed once on-site officials were notified by a detainee or inmate of their symptoms, before an infected individual received proper medical attention?
  6. How many doctors or qualified medical staff does the facility contract with or employ?

We strongly urge you to pursue a thorough and urgent review of current policies, procedures, and implementation of medical treatment at the McHenry County Jail and other ICE detention facilities that you oversee.  We look forward to a prompt and complete response.

Sincerely,

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