House Democrats Call on ICE To Release More Illegal Immigrants from Detention Due to COVID-19

House Democrats Call on ICE To Release More Illegal Immigrants from Detention Due to COVID-19


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Janet Ybarra
Former Washington Journalist
Contributor on The Bipartisan Press

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House Judiciary Committee Chairman Jerrold Nadler (D-NY) is among the senior House Democrats calling on the Trump administration to release undocumented immigrants in the custody of Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) due to the spread of COVID-19.

The Trump administration has been capturing and detaining large numbers of undocumented immigrants as part of Donald Trump’s hardline anti-immigration policies, which have been a hallmark of his presidency.

“Today the outbreak of COVID-19 and its extensive spread through the ICE detention system have shown the tragic cost of ICE’s mismanagement and failure to improve conditions,” Nadler said Wednesday. “On April 7th, when subcommittee chair [Zoe] Lofgren [D-Calif] and I wrote our letter urging ICE to release individuals who pose no threat to public safety or national security, particularly those who are at heightened risk of death or serious illness from COVID-19.”

What House Democrats are asking for is similar to the release of some prison inmates across the country in response to the pandemic.

There were 13 individuals on April 7, who had tested positive for the virus at eight ICE facilities, Nadler said.

“Today, after ICE largely ignored our request, one month later, there are at least 881 individuals who have tested positive in dozens of ICE facilities across the country,” Nadler added. “And because ICE lacks the capacity to test all detainees, it is likely that the number of confirmed cases is actually much higher. You have the capability to safely and compassionately process migrants, including women and children, and to ensure that individuals appear for scheduled hearings.

“Instead of indiscriminately detaining immigrants, ICE could employ a broad array of alternatives to detention, many of which are extraordinarily successful at ensuring attendance in immigration court hearings, which is the only proper purpose, while also being far less expensive,” he said. “The Trump administration’s immigration actions and response to the COVID-19 pandemic have been ineffective as a matter of policy and offensive as a matter of basic human decency.”

ICE officials said that they released, due to COVID-19, nearly 700 detainees in mid April, after evaluating their “immigration history, criminal record, potential threat to public safety, flight risk, and national security concerns.”

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