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Early Arrival: New York Laundromats Struggling Under Coronavirus

Friday's Edition of Early Arrival: New York Immigrant Communities Hit Hardest by COVID-19 Pandemic — Border Patrol Can Block All Asylum Seekers — ICE Will Make Release Decisions 'Case-by-Case'

Queens, New York - April 27, 2018: Views of Astoria neighborhood along Steinway Street. Photo: Christopher Lee for Documented.

New York laundromats have been deemed ‘essential businesses’ by Gov. Andrew Cuomo, but the crisis has taken a toll on the industry, which is largely immigrant-run. Laundromats are closing or cutting hours to avoid coronavirus risks. “We see too much people, new faces,” one laundromat owner said. “We don’t want to take a risk.” Many laundry workers have seen their hours cut and don’t qualify for paid sick leave, which doesn’t apply to workplaces with fewer than five people. Some laundromat workers are starting to report they’re getting sick. THE CITY


New York Immigrant Communities Hit Hardest by the COVID-19 Pandemic, Data Shows

Corona, Queens is officially the heart of the coronavirus outbreak in New York City, according to data from the NYC Department of Health and Mental Hygiene released Monday. The zip code that covers Corona, North Corona and Willets Point had the highest number of positive tests in New York City, at 947 cases. U.S. census data also shows that is also home to the highest rate of foreign-born residents in the city. Its homes are also among the most overcrowded and residents are least likely to have health insurance, creating a perfect storm of conditions for the virus to spread. Read more at Documented

Man Whose Girlfriend’s Son Was Shot by an ICE Agent Released Over COVID-19 Threat

The man who ICE agents sought to arrest but shot his girlfriend’s son in the face in the process was released from detention in New Jersey due to the threat of COVID-19 exposure. A federal judge ordered U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement to release Gaspar Avendano-Hernandez from the Hudson County Jail on April 1 in response to the increase in COVID-19 cases there. New Jersey’s four immigrant detention facilities have seven confirmed cases so far. Erick Diaz-Cruz was shot in the face after he saw Avendano-Hernandez struggling with plainclothes ICE agents on the street in Gravesend, Brooklyn. He survived the shooting, but spent time in the hospital and had to get surgery. Brooklyn Paper

Officer at Hudson County Jail Dies Due to COVID-19 Exposure

Bernard Waddell Sr., 56, a 28-year-veteran officer at the Hudson County jail, died after contracting the new coronavirus. Waddell had been out of the jail since March 17 and had several underlying health conditions, a spokesman for the county said. Waddell was assigned to a criminal section of the jail, but was familiar with ICE detainees and coordinated their transportation. At the Bergen County jail, a corrections officer tested positive for the virus. At the Essex County Jail, another officer tested positive. Both facilities also detain immigrants. NJ Advance Media

New Jersey Immigration Court Reopened

The Elizabeth Immigration Court will reopen Friday after it was closed earlier in the week. The Executive Office of Immigration Review, which oversees the courts, closed the court on Monday. In a statement on Twitter, the agency said it was due to the fact that the Elizabeth Detention Center, which houses the court, was closed. In a statement to Documented, ICE denied that it had closed the detention center. Multiple sources confirmed to Documented that the court will be reopened on Friday, but judges will be asked to volunteer to appear. EOIR has been criticized for making ad-hoc decisions to open and close courts during the pandemic. Read more at Documented


Border Patrol Now Has Power to Block All Asylum Seekers

Border Patrol agents are, for the first time since the enactment of the Refugee Act in 1980, turning asylum seekers away at the border without giving them a chance to make a legal case. ProPublica obtained an internal Border Patrol memo that detailed the move, which came as a part of the Trump administration’s shutdown of the U.S.–Mexico border. The CDC has the power to block people from entering the U.S. if they may spread an infectious disease. So on March 20, it barred the entry of people without proper documentation, arguing they could spread the disease in CBP detention facilities. ProPublica

Central America Lockdown Curtails Migration

Border closures throughout Central America and Mexico have curtailed the migrant trail, forcing people to postpone their journeys. Activists across the region have reported a steep decline in the number of migrants coming from Central America since the restrictions were implemented. A Mexican shelter near the Guatemalan border said it hadn’t received a single new arrival in a week. El Salvador closed its borders on March 11, and Guatemala and Honduras did so shortly after along with internal lockdowns. Migrants now cannot leave their home countries. Guatemala and Honduras meanwhile continue to receive deportation flights, and deportee tested positive for COVID-19 last week. The Guardian

ICE Seeks to Expand Facial Recognition Technology

In the midst of the worsening coronavirus pandemic, ICE is seeking help to connect the agency’s facial recognition system to the DHS Gang Intelligence Application database. The agency recently solicited contracts to hire developers to overhaul the Gang Intelligence Application database and establish a face template for all photos uploaded to it. According to the statement of work, Homeland Security Investigations will use it to “to identify, track, disrupt and dismantle Transnational Gangs in Virginia, West Virginia and Washington D.C. area of operations.” Electronic Privacy Information Center

State Department Calls for More Immigrant Doctors

In an about-face for the Trump administration, the State Department issued a call for doctors who have U.S. visas to either extend their stay in the country or to expedite travel plans to the U.S. The announcement is aimed at “those working to treat or mitigate the effects of COVID-19” who are in the U.S. on a J-1 visa. The administration also encouraged these visa recipients’ sponsors to try and extend their stays in the U.S. Quartz

Undocumented California Farmworkers Now Considered ‘Essential’

Undocumented farmworkers in California have continued working during the pandemic, as they are considered essential workers. They’ve been given letters by the state to clarify their essential work status — but these will not protect them from deportation. All the while, undocumented people are afraid working may put their health at risk as they’re packed in facilities and working in close conditions in fields. “It’s sad that it takes a health crisis like this to highlight the farmworkers’ importance,” said Hector Lujan, chief executive of Reiter Brothers farm. The New York Times

Washington — ICE Will Make Release Decisions ‘Case-by-Case,’ Foreign Workers Expedited

Acting Homeland Security Secretary Chad Wolf said Wednesday that the agency would consider releasing immigrants who are at heightened risk of catching the new coronavirus. Speaking at a White House press conference, Wolf said the releases were happening on a “case-by-case” basis but refused to commit to releasing large groups of detainees.

ICE, which is housed within Wolf’s agency, has faced calls to release immigrants from detention who do not have criminal records or have compromised immune systems. Several health experts and the agency’s former director have said detention centers are a hotbed for the virus, as it could spread rapidly among detainees. Visitations at detention centers has halted. Washington Blade

The Trump administration is still accepting foreign workers for specific jobs despite closing the border to asylum seekers. Medical professionals, farmworkers, landscapers and crab pickers have seen their requirements eased during the pandemic, as the administration is aware those industries could be harmed if they aren’t able to hire foreign workers. The president has faced a backlash from immigration restrictionists who say that he should not be turning to foreign workers when there are a record number of unemployed Americans. Politico

Max Siegelbaum

Co-executive Director of Documented


Mazin Sidahmed

Mazin Sidahmed is the co-executive director of Documented. He previously worked for the Guardian US in New York. He started his career writing for The Daily Star in Beirut and he also contributed to Politico New York.




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