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Tuesday, March 31, 2020

Joaquin Castro and Other U.S. Reps Call for Release of ICE Detainees Amid Coronavirus Crisis

Posted By on Tue, Mar 31, 2020 at 3:46 PM

Migrants in ICE detention centers are held in cramped conditions that can enable quick spread of disease, critics charge. - COURTESY PHOTO / JOAQUIN CASTRO
  • Courtesy Photo / Joaquin Castro
  • Migrants in ICE detention centers are held in cramped conditions that can enable quick spread of disease, critics charge.
On Tuesday, the Congressional Hispanic Caucus demanded the Trump Administration release low-risk immigrants from federal custody as the COVID-19 pandemic intensifies.

Lawmakers including Caucus Chairman Joaquin Castro, D-San Antonio; Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, D-New York; and Sylvia Garcia, D-Houston, warned that Immigration and Customs Enforcement's overcrowded facilities are a ticking time bomb for spreading the coronavirus.



As of Monday, four detainees in ICE custody have already tested positive for COVID-19, as have five department personnel, Castro pointed out. ICE operates detention facilities in San Antonio and the nearby towns of Pearsall, Dilley and Karnes City.

"An infection like this, which already may be happening, can easily overrun a facility and also its local health care system," Castro said on a conference call with reporters.

The ACLU has filed seven lawsuits demanding the release of detainees and expects to file more, said Maureen Shah, a senior policy counsel for the civil rights group.

click to enlarge This detention facility in Karnes County is located an hour Southeast of San Antonio. - WIKIMEDIA COMMONS / STUART SEEGER
  • Wikimedia Commons / Stuart Seeger
  • This detention facility in Karnes County is located an hour Southeast of San Antonio.
This weekend, a federal district judge called on immigration officials to either release migrant children from custody or justify why it's keeping them locked up through the pandemic.

What's more, two Department of Homeland Security doctors last week warned Congress the detention facilities pose “an imminent risk to the health and safety of immigrant detainees” as well as the public.

On the conference call, Ocasio-Cortez said ICE is aware of the potentially tragic outcome of keeping migrants in lockups but continues to dig in its heels as part of President Trump's hardline immigration policies.

"ICE knew this was an enormous risk, this administration has known this is an enormous risk, and we're not getting an adequate response," Ocasio-Cortez said.

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