Date of Graduation

Fall 12-11-2020

Document Access

Project/Capstone - Global access

Degree Name

Master of Public Health (MPH)


School of Nursing and Health Professions

First Advisor

Ellen Lewis, PhD


This paper reviews the current health practices of Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) detention centers, focusing on asylum seekers housed at Otay Mesa Detention Center (OMDC) located in San Diego, California, United States. Many asylum seekers, or foreign nationals who have been confirmed to have a credible fear of persecution in their home countries, regardless of how they enter the United States, are placed into Federal Immigration and Customs Enforcement detention centers. Two avenues for the release of detainees while they wait for their asylum cases to be heard by an immigration judge are bond and parole applications, the basis for this project and fieldwork. Asylum is a process that seeks to prove why a person cannot safely go home, bond and parole are processes that seek to prove why a person cannot stay in detention. A new holistic approach to both these processes includes the support of public health evidence. Public health professionals working with attorneys can be the difference between being sent back to their country of origin, released, continued detention, or life and death for many migrant detainees.

The collaboration highlighted in this fieldwork included me, serving as a public health intern, and the binational legal advocacy organization, Al Otro Lado (AOL) and their Otay Mesa Release Project. The Otay Mesa Release Project focuses on using bond and parole applications to get detainees released from detention so that they may fight their asylum cases as non-detained asylum seekers. Together we declared OMDC as a risk factor for negative health outcomes. Detainees have been documented to suffer from a number of ailments ranging from diabetes to PTSD and further suffer from compounded trauma from their experiences living in detention centers. By including public health facts and research in legal arguments, detainees represented by AOL attorneys now have a better chance at release than the national averages.