A total of 78 inmates have been placed in quarantine at New Jersey’s Essex County Correctional Facility, the jail announced on Saturday, as it continues to combat the spread of the new coronavirus among inmates. Six corrections officers and a federal immigration detainee have tested positive for the virus at the Essex facility. The jail houses a mix of county inmates and Immigration and Customs Enforcement detainees — 566 of the total 1,749 inmates are immigration detainees.
In response to requests from the public defender’s office, 72 inmates have been released in recent days to reduce their chances of catching COVID-19. ICE has also allowed the release of 46 detainees that were held at the jail based on their underlying health conditions. ICE has contracts to hold detainees with jails in Essex, Bergen and Hudson counties in New Jersey. Immigration advocates have called for the release of ICE detainees from all those facilities. According to ICE, five immigrants and one guard have tested positive across those facilities.
Lawyers have filed a number of lawsuits to argue for the release of clients, especially those with underlying health conditions. The Brooklyn Defender Services announced it won the release of 11 immigrants from immigration detention last week through lawsuits, bond hearings and winning relief in immigration court. NorthJersey.com
Green Light Law Amendment in State Budget
The state legislature approved an update to the Green Light Law in the state budget, which passed Friday. That amendment will allow the Department of Motor Vehicles to share certain information with federal officials. The move comes after months of conflict between state officials and the federal government over the law’s restrictions on data sharing, which led Homeland Security to ban New Yorkers from the Global Travelers program. Immigration advocates did win a victory in the state budget by securing a renewed commitment to fund legal services for immigrants and refugee support under the Liberty Defense Project. Associated Press
Cab Driver Contracts COVID-19
Raul Romero, a taxi driver in New York, was urged by his wife and two adult children to stay home during the coronavirus pandemic. But like many New Yorkers, Romero couldn’t afford to stop working. He has since contracted COVID-19 and spread it to his wife, oldest daughter and son-in-law. Romero can no longer work and worries about where his April rent will come from. To make matters worse, Romero is diabetic, which puts him at further risk. He believes he was infected while transporting a passenger who had tested positive to the hospital. The Washington Post
How Undocumented Immigrants Can Access COVID-19 Tests
New Jersey’s 500,000 undocumented immigrants face unique barriers to getting adequate tests and treatment for COVID-19, but there are options. Drive-thru testing facilities run by FEMA require state ID, while others require proof of residence or a referral. But undocumented immigrants in New Jersey can get tested for COVID-19 if they bring a utility bill that proves they live in the state. Foreign passports will also often work at county-run testing sites. Undocumented immigrants can visit a Federal Qualified Health Center for a free COVID-19 test. A full list can be found here. Hospitals will not turn away emergency cases in the event that one requires treatment for the virus. NorthJersey.com
Many ICE Detention Centers Located Far From Hospitals
ICE has said that it will transfer immigrants to hospitals that specialize in high-risk care if there is an outbreak in detention centers. But Reuters found that one-third of the 43,000 immigrants in detention as of March 2 were housed at facilities where either one hospital or no hospitals had intensive-care beds within 25 miles. An outbreak at ICE detention centers could quickly swamp hospitals in the vicinity and make it harder to treat local residents. There were seven facilities with no hospitals nearby, which housed a total of about 5,000 detainees. Reuters
13 ICE Detainees Test Positive for COVID-19 Nationwide
An ICE detainee at York County Prison in Pennsylvania has tested positive for COVID-19, the agency announced on Saturday, bringing the total of detainees with the virus to 13. The detainee is now being held in a “negative pressure room” that prevents air from leaving the space. An immigrant detainee at Otay Mesa Detention Center in California also tested positive, ICE confirmed on Friday. The detainee has been in quarantine since Wednesday. Around the country, lawyers are asking federal judges to order ICE to release their clients, with mixed success. SIx detainees were ordered released from the Adelanto ICE Processing Center in California. York Dispatch, San Diego Tribune, The Palm Springs Desert Sun
Immigrants Would Rather be Deported Than Remain Detained
Immigrants in ICE detention at the Winn correctional center told The Guardian that they would rather be deported than remain locked up amid the COVID-19 pandemic. They said 44 of them had been isolated together after they were possibly exposed to coronavirus. Like other detention centers, detainees complain that their calls for masks, hand sanitizers, and other supplies have been ignored, even for elderly detainees and those with asthma. The detainees said ICE was not transparent about why they were being isolated and that four days into their quarantine, seven of their fellow detainees were deported to Colombia. The Guardian
Pandemic Limits Options for Migrants in Tijuana
Asylum seekers have been forced to wait out the global pandemic under difficult conditions in Tijuana, Mexico as immigration court proceedings grind to a halt. Many immigrants were waiting in shelters across the border when the coronavirus pandemic ramped up, leading the U.S. and Mexico to close the border and the U.S. to halt Migration Protection Protocols proceedings. Some shelters are even turning migrants away to maintain social distancing quotas within their facilities. Health care access for migrants is also limited in Tijuana, but the Mexican government has been criticized for accepting deportees while blocking the travel of humanitarian workers and equipment. HuffPost
Dreamer and TPS Holder Students Report Income Loss
A huge majority of DACA recipients on a particular scholarship program have lost income due to the coronavirus pandemic. A survey of TheDream.US scholarship recipients found that 76 percent had lost work in some way. The scholarship is open to Dreamers and people with Temporary Protected Status; 3,700 currently count on it. The survey also found 65 percent of its 1,679 respondents said they needed help to pay rent and utilities and 48 percent reported needing help to purchase food and meals. The Supreme Court will decide the fate of 700,000 current Dreamers in a decision that may be announced Tuesday. The Hill
Washington — Pandemic Lets Trump Fulfill Immigration Dreams, SCOTUS May Make DACA Decision
The coronavirus pandemic has become an opportunity for Trump to fulfill some of his long-held immigration goals. The administration has implemented a strict enforcement regime in the name of the pandemic, blocking all migration across the southern border and suspending laws that protect minors and asylum seekers to allow them to be immediately deported.
It has taken, on average, just 96 minutes for migrants of all ages who cross the southern border to be deported to Mexico with no medical checks. All these measures are being justified as preventative to stop the spread of COVID-19 in immigration detention, Homeland Security officials argue.
The largest shift in policy is that migrants are no longer given a chance to make asylum claims, but rather are deported almost immediately — the first time the U.S. has done this since the Refugee Act was enacted in 1980. Immigration advocates fear these measures will remain in place for some time with the pandemic used as a justification. Meanwhile, children crossing the border who are typically sent to shelters operated by Health and Human Services are now being deported immediately or deported with whatever adult they crossed with. The Washington Post
The Supreme Court may decide on the future of the DACA program this week. The decision will come as several of its recipients are currently working in the healthcare sector during the pandemic. The Guardian