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Early Arrival: Guard at NJ Jail Where Immigrants are Detained Tests Positive for COVID-19

Friday's Edition of Early Arrival: COVID-19 Outbreak Disastrous for Day Laborers and Street Vendors — ICE Pledges to Wind Down Immigration Arrests — U.S.–Canada Border Closed to Nonessential Travel

A guard at a jail in New Jersey where immigrant detainees are held tested positive for the new coronavirus on Wednesday.

The guard and seven others from the Bergen County Jail in Hackensack were asked to self-quarantine for two weeks. The jail’s medical staff is monitoring inmates the guard may have come in contact with, according to a statement.

A spokesperson from the Center for Disease Control said the guard did not come into contact with any of the hundreds of immigrant detainees held there. Currently, no inmates or ICE detainees are exhibiting symptoms of the virus, the CDC spokesperson said. The Record


Detained Cases for Immigrant Children Continue Despite COVID-19 Outbreak

After weeks of pressure from immigration judges and lawyers driven by fears of the fast-spreading coronavirus, the Justice Department agreed to shut down most hearings at New York’s two immigration courts. But there are some exceptions: All hearings for detained immigrants, including children who are in federal custody, will continue. At the latest juvenile court hearings, legal assistants were frantically spraying Clorox into the air in the courtroom in hopes of stopping the virus, an attorney present recalled. There were also far more than 10 people packed into any given area and people did not stay six feet apart — the opposite of CDC recommendations. Read more at Documented.

COVID-19 Outbreak Disastrous for Day Laborers and Street Vendors

While many New Yorkers are hunkered down at home waiting out the coronavirus, some can’t afford to do so. That’s especially true for much of the city’s immigrant labor force, particularly day laborers, have no choice but to continue venturing out into the city for work. This puts them at risk of contracting COVID-19 and spreading it further, and many of them are already afraid of interacting with the healthcare industry due to the Trump administration’s public charge rule. The pandemic has been particularly disastrous for street vendors, who are largely immigrants. Some say their sales have gone down as much as 80 percent. Read more at Documented.

Detainees Announce Hunger Strike Over Jail Conditions

Detained immigrants at the Essex County Jail in Newark announced they are on a hunger strike because they fear they will contract the new coronavirus. At least 10 detainees in 2B3 pod started the strike on Tuesday, sending a note throughout the jail to ask others to join. The detainees are calling on ICE to release them immediately, whether it’s into the community or deported back to their countries of birth. “If we get sick, at least we’d be able to be with our families before we die,” said Julio Calcas, 55, a father of two who has spent almost two years at the jail. “I’m hoping it doesn’t come to that.” Gothamist / WNYC


ICE Pledges to Wind Down Immigration Arrests During Coronavirus

After much outcry, Immigration and Customs Enforcement officials will delay arresting immigrants as COVID-19 spreads. “To ensure the welfare and safety of the general public as well as officers and agents in light of the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic response, U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) will temporarily adjust its enforcement posture beginning today, March 18, 2020,” a statement released by the agency read. “ICE’s highest priorities are to promote life-saving and public safety activities.” The agency will now focus on arresting immigrants who fit into the category of “public safety risks and individuals subject to mandatory detention based on criminal grounds.” BuzzFeed News

County Sheriff Rejects ICE Detainees — So Agency Transfers All Detainees From His Jail

The Kenosha County Sheriff’s Office in Wisconsin announced recently it would no longer house immigrant detainees in the local jail over fears of spreading coronavirus. The department determined detainees already in the jail could stay, but Immigration and Customs Enforcement responded by transferring 170 immigrants out from the jail. They’ve since been moved to Illinois and Texas. Advocates are calling for all immigrant detainees to be released from jail over COVID-19 concerns. BuzzFeed News

Ninth Person Dies in ICE Custody this Fiscal Year

A 27-year old Honduran man died by suicide in ICE detention on Wednesday, marking the ninth death of a person in ICE custody since the 2020 fiscal year began in October. This has already exceeded the eight people who died in ICE custody in the 2018-19 fiscal year The Honduran man crossed the border with family members in Texas on Feb. 19 and was transferred to Karnes County Residential Center, a family detention center in Texas. He had failed a credible fear interview with USCIS and an appeal before an immigration judge. ICE has come under scrutiny for poor medical care in its facilities. BuzzFeed News

California Immigrants Vulnerable to Coronavirus

Immigrant workers in California are worried about how the spread of the new coronavirus will hurt their health and their work on farms. Farmworkers expressed fear that going to the hospital could hurt their chances of getting a green card even though the Trump administration’s new public charge rules are not supposed to apply to coronavirus testing or treatment. Working on a farm also makes it difficult to follow the CDC’s social distancing guidelines. In Los Angeles, immigrants often live in overcrowded houses and apartments, making them more likely to spread the illness. The New York Times

Medical Professionals Call on ICE to Close Detention Centers

More than 3,000 medical professionals have called on ICE to release detainees during the coronavirus epidemic in an open letter. They cited cramped and unsanitary conditions in detention centers that could make it easy to spread the virus — an outbreak in a facility would “spread like wildfire,” former head of ICE John Sandweg said. ICE has faced calls to release all immunocompromised and elderly detainees, as well as those who do not pose a threat to public safety. The medical professionals said in the letter it would be impossible to ensure people would be safe in detention. The Hill, CBS

Washington — U.S.–Canada Border Closed to Nonessential Travel, Guatemala Resumes Deportations, Visas and Refugee Admissions Paused

The U.S. and Canada mutually agreed to close their shared border to nonessential travel in further efforts to stem the spread of the coronavirus, President Trump announced Wednesday. Exemptions will be made for trade and for Canadians who live in Florida for part of the year. The two countries rely on each other extensively for trade, with 75% of Canadian exports going to the U.S., including 98% of its oil exports. 

The move comes as President Trump said he would exercise powers to block all unauthorized migrants from crossing the border with Mexico. Still, he ruled out a complete shutdown of the U.S.–Mexico border — a position he has toyed with in the past. Associated Press

Within two days of deciding it would block all deportation flights from the U.S., Guatemala reversed its decision. It will resume deportations of Guatemalans, but will continue its suspension of the bilateral asylum agreement in which Honduran and Salvadoran migrants apprehended at the U.S.-Mexico border are deported to Guatemala to seek asylum there. Reuters

The State Department is suspending routine visa services in most countries around the world in response to the coronavirus. All appointments were canceled as of Wednesday and the agency did not specify when interviews would be resumed. This could have a dramatic ripple effect across the economy as seasonal foreign workers, who make up 10% of the farm workforce, will not be able to get visas. Foreign students who are set to receive college admissions may not be able to attend universities as well. Family reunifications will also be put on hold. The Wall Street Journal

The U.S. is putting a pause on refugee admissions in light of COVID-19 spread until April 6. The International Organization of Migration also announced a temporary stop on resettlement flights, prompting the American pause. The agency is also responsible for transporting refugees to the U.S. CNNThe U.S. is considering loosening restrictions on EB-5 visas, which grant green cards to foreign investors, in order to boost investment in the U.S. The EB-5 visa cap currently sits at 10,000, and this policy would up it to 75,000. The proposal would also require world-be immigrants to invest less money, from $900,000 to $450,000. The measure is being considered to help stem the economic impact of the coronavirus as the country braces itself for a recession. Sen. Lindsey Graham (R-S.C.) backs the policy, but hardline immigration groups don’t, splitting the two factions that typically support Trump. Politico

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