ICE to Release Almost 700 Undocumented Immigrants at Highest Risk from Coronavirus from Its Overcrowded Detention Centers
Adry Torres, Daily Mail, April 15, 2020
Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) is set to release nearly 700 migrants who are at most risk of a coronavirus outbreak at their detention centers including immigrants who are elderly, pregnant, or have underlying conditions.
ICE said they also took into account the danger to the public and flight risk of the 693 detainees they were releasing.
The decision comes on the heel of mounting pressure from Democrats and pro-immigrant groups who have demanded the mass liberation of more than 34,000 who are incarcerated and remain at risk of contracting the deadly coronavirus.
Acting Deputy Homeland Security Director Ken Cuccinelli revealed on Tuesday that the agency had initially chosen a small group of 160 people who are over the age of 60 or pregnant.
ICE then conducted a study of the rest of its prison population and found that hundreds of others who suffered lung illness or other medical conditions also qualified to be released.
‘As a special response to this particular crisis, ICE has instructed its field offices to further assess for the purpose of considering releases of certain individuals deemed to be at greater risk of exposure,’ Cuccinelli told reporters, according to Fox News.
‘ICE continues to reevaluate all individuals in custody who make up vulnerable populations and they’ve been modifying practices based on recommendations of the CDC.’
The federal immigration enforcement agency is currently holding 33,800 people who unlawfully entered the United States, but more than half of the population have never been charged of a criminal offense or convicted of a crime.
Though the Trump administration has effectively shut down new asylum claims during the pandemic, it’s still holding people who were apprehended months or years earlier for civil violations, including over 5,800 people who passed government asylum screenings.
Those who are eligible to be released will be subjected to several restrictions, including the use of a monitoring device.
The ravaging illness has caused the death 26,059 people and sickened 609,696 in the United States.
As of Sunday, ICE had reported that 77 detainees had tested positive for the coronavirus.
The most recent case is that of a 40-year-old Mexican man who was being held at an ICE detention facility in Livingston, Texas.
Nine leaders at evangelical Christian organizations urged the Trump administration to release people from immigration detention facilities ‘who do not pose a threat to public safety’ during the coronavirus pandemic, particularly those who are elderly or otherwise at higher risk for contracting COVID-19.
In a letter dated Monday to Chad Wolf, acting secretary of the Department of Homeland Security, the evangelicals called for alliances with religious and other local groups to help find released detainees ‘safe accommodations in which to `shelter in place´ for as long as such practices are advised.’ Such actions to aid social distancing in detention, the faith leaders wrote, would help staff as well as detained migrants.
‘Our concern is rooted in our Christian belief that each human life is made in the image of God and thus precious, and, like you, we want to do everything possible to minimize the loss of life as a result of this pandemic,’ the prominent evangelicals wrote.
The evangelicals signing the letter said they would ‘encourage the many churches and ministries within our networks to provide any assistance they can’ to help released detainees shelter safely.
The letter was signed by Russell Moore, president of the Ethics & Religious Liberty Commission of the Southern Baptist Convention; Walter Kim, president of the National Association of Evangelicals; and Samuel Rodriguez, president of the National Hispanic Christian Leadership Council, among others. The signatories are senior members of the Evangelical Immigration Table, a group of Christian leaders who support comprehensive immigration reform.
Rodriguez delivered a prayer at President Donald Trump’s inauguration and has advised Trump on immigration, but has previously criticized some elements of the administration’s immigration policy.