WASHINGTON, D.C. —Today, U.S. Senator Cory Booker (D-N.J.) called on the Department of Homeland Security (DHS), U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE), and U.S. Customs and Border Protection (CBP) to cease all immigration enforcement operations, unless an individual poses a threat to public safety, and release vulnerable detainees from custody who are particularly susceptible to COVID-19. The letter comes on the heels of yesterday’s order by a federal judge for ICE to immediately release 10 immigrants held in detention in New Jersey county jails due to the imminent harm posed by COVID-19 to vulnerable detainees.
Despite reports that ICE would alter enforcement priorities as the country grapples with the outbreak of the novel coronavirus, officials within DHS have sent mixed signals regarding how enforcement priorities will be modified to address the crisis.
“I believe it is imperative for the Department of Homeland Security (DHS), U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE), and Customs and Border Protection (CBP) to take bold actions to protect its employees, those who are under its custody, and vulnerable immigrant populations. First, I am calling on ICE to cease all immigration enforcement operations, unless ICE can show by clear and convincing evidence that the individual in question is likely to pose a specific and substantial risk of causing bodily injury or using violent force against the person of another,” Booker wrote in a letter to the leaders of DHS, ICE, and CBP.
“Second, and in connection with our first request, I firmly believe that ICE should immediately release all immigrants under its custody—including those at private facilities and county jails—who are considered vulnerable and who are not likely to pose a specific and substantial risk of causing bodily injury or using violent force against the person of another. There are numerous alternatives to detention available that will ensure that immigrants under ICE custody show up for necessary check-ins with ICE field offices and court dates. People who are in detention facilities are particularly susceptible to the spread of infectious diseases, such as the highly-contagious novel coronavirus,” Booker said, citing the nature of their close confinement and conditions in detention facilities.
Earlier this month, Senator Booker joined his colleagues in sending a letter to DHS, ICE, and CBP requesting information about the policies and procedures their respective agencies have in place to prepare for and manage a potential spread of the coronavirus among detainees and staff in DHS facilities. Senator Booker also called on DHS to halt immigration enforcement at hospitals and medical facilities to ensure that undocumented immigrants are not discouraged from seeking medical care for COVID-19.
Full text of the letter is available here.