At the Hudson, Essex and Bergen County jails in New Jersey, 245 people, or 20 percent of the total population of immigrant detainees, have been released over the past month due to risk of contracting COVID-19, according to a Gothamist/WNYC review. Those facilities also account for about a third of the U.S.’s positive COVID-19 cases among detainees.
ICE agents have been largely absent from the jails in recent weeks, but dozens of county correctional officials have still fallen ill. At the Hudson County jail, four staffers have died from COVID-19. Many of the people released from the three jails were done so on orders of supervision, which means they’re monitored on electronic ankle bracelets and through other means. Some of the immigrants have been let out on court orders.
Advocates and attorneys had demanded the release of most, if not all, people in ICE detention and continue to do so, even filing habeas corpus lawsuits in some cases. In one case that resulted in the release of five ICE detainees, Judge Madeline Cox Arleo in New Jersey ruled “there can be no greater punishment” than to remain at Hudson and Bergen County jails during the pandemic. In Essex, 43 correctional staff have tested positive for the disease. Officials at the jail will now screen everyone who enters for coronavirus using newly available rapid blood tests. Gothamist/WNYC
Documented and Univision 41 Dive into COVID-19 Misinformation and Rumors
In this time of uncertainty, New Yorkers are searching for news that helps make sense of this time, as well as valuable and possibly life-saving instructions. Unfortunately, rumors and misinformation have overtaken some of that information. Documented has teamed up with Univision 41 to investigate what coronavirus information is spreading among Spanish-speaking New Yorkers and fact checking it. We will dive into our findings tomorrow (in Spanish) at 7 p.m. during a Facebook Live event hosted on Univision’s Facebook page. Tune in here on Thursday at 7 p.m. to watch.
City Councilmembers Calling for COVID-19 Burial Fund for Undocumented Immigrants
Undocumented immigrants may have help burying their loved ones who have died of COVID-19, so City Council Speaker Corey Johnson and Queens Councilmember Francisco Moya are calling for emergency funds for burial assistance. Currently, low-income New Yorkers are eligible for $900 in reimbursement funds through the Human Resources Administration for burial or cremation expenses. “It breaks my heart that we have to be searching for ways to help people to bury their loved ones in a dignified manner,” Moya said, adding that he received calls from constituents, funeral homes and the consul general of Ecuador about the costs of burial. The details of the funding are still being determined. Gothamist
Essex County to Become First Correctional Facility to Screen Everyone for COVID-19
Essex County announced that ICE detainees and inmates housed at its correctional facility will be screened for the coronavirus with a newly approved antibody rapid blood test, as will everyone who enters the facility. Officials said the test will help the facility’s health provider CFG Health Systems identify who has been exposed to the virus. The rapid blood test draws blood from a finger prick, then delivers results in 15 minutes. The first 35 kits arrived on Friday for the provider to begin testing. Another 750 kits should arrive this week and 2,000 more will arrive next week. TAPintoNewark
Evangelical Leaders Call on Trump to Release Immigrant Detainees
Nine leaders of evangelical Christian organizations are calling on the Trump administration to release people from immigration detention “who do not pose a threat to public safety.” In a letter to Chad Wolf, acting secretary of the Department of Homeland Security, the evangelicals called on ICE to work with religious and other local groups to find safe accommodations for released detainees. “Our concern is rooted in our Christian belief that each human life is made in the image of God and thus precious, and, like you, we want to do everything possible to minimize the loss of life as a result of this pandemic,” they wrote in the letter. USA Today
Immigrant Healthcare Workers Stymied by Bureaucracy
There’s a pool of 260,000 immigrants and refugees in the U.S. with undergraduate degrees in health-related fields that are either underemployed or unemployed and could be working on coronavirus response efforts, according to a Migration Policy Institute analysis of U.S. Census Bureau data. And outside that workforce, there are untold scores of doctors and nurses who have work experience outside of the U.S. but are stuck working remedial jobs here because they can’t work in localities other than ones their visas specify. States will be responsible for pulling back restrictions that don’t allow the doctors to work. Bloomberg Law
Nearly 40 Children Test Positive for COVID-19 at Chicago Shelter
At least 37 children at a Chicago shelter for immigrant detainees have tested positive for COVID-19. Two employees have also tested positive. “We are operating under the assumption that we will see additional positive diagnoses as we receive results from the other tests that have been administered, and the steps we are taking to ensure the health and safety of our participants and staff are based on that assumption,” Mailee Garcia, a spokeswoman for the organization, wrote in a statement. It’s unclear how old the children are or where they’re from, but the facility is licensed to hold boys and girls from infancy to 17 years old. ProPublica
Tens of Thousand of TPS Holders Have Coronavirus Essential Jobs
A Center for American Progress analysis of census data shows tens of thousands of Temporary Protected Status holders are working in industries considered “essential critical infrastructure” during the COVID-19 pandemic. There are estimated 11,600 health care workers who are TPS holders nationwide, as well as 76,100 TPS holders working in food-related occupations or industries. The TPS program was ended by the Trump administration, but has been challenged in court multiple times across the country. Read the analysis here.
Over 6000 Migrants Turned Away at the Border
Border agents turned away 6,306 migrants at the southern border in the 10 days after President Trump authorized the widespread denial of most asylum claims. The administration used the COVID-19 epidemic and a 1944 law related to stopping the spreading of communicable diseases to give the agents the power to turn asylum seekers away. The administration said it was cancelling travel to stop the spread of the coronavirus. But few of the countries where asylum seekers traveled from have more than a handful of COVID-19 cases, and many of the confirmed cases were from people who traveled there from the U.S. Tucson Weekly
Washington — Supreme Court Filing Details Impact of Public Charge on Coronavirus Response
Immigrants fear seeking medical care for potential symptoms of the novel coronavirus and are worried coronavirus exposure will affect their legal cases, according to a legal filing from New York Attorney General Letitia James. The filing comes as part of a Supreme Court case where James’ office is challenging the Trump administration over the public charge rule, which allows the government to essentially decide who enters the country through a wealth test. James requested the court reconsider its decision to allow the policy to proceed.
The ruling “deters access to public benefits, including nutrition benefits, that are critical for both immigrants and the country as a whole to weather the economic crisis triggered by COVID-19,” James said in the filing to argue against the Supreme Court’s stay that let it proceed. In January, five conservative Supreme Court justices voted to allow the Trump administration to implement the policy. A federal judge had previously issued a national injunction.
In recent weeks, doctors have seen immigrants avoid “COVID-19 testing and treatment altogether, even if they might be able to obtain publicly funded care, due to the substantial fear generated by the Public Charge Rule,” according to the filing. Pedro Moreno, a doctor in Monterey County in California, said many of his undocumented patients working in the fields were likely COVID-19 positive. “Unfortunately, many of them are afraid to seek medical care due to the public charge rule, and are already spreading the infection in our community,” he wrote in a declaration attached to the filing. BuzzFeed News