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Early Arrival: Buffalo Detention Center Has the Most COVID-19 Positive Detainees in the Country

Wednesday's Edition of Early Arrival: Documented Hosts Q&A On Housing Rights During COVID-19 — Report: Smithfield Foods Slow to React to COVID-19 Threat — Trump Halts Green Card Issuance for 60 Days

The Buffalo Federal Detention Facility in Batavia, New York, is home to the largest population of immigrant detainees with COVID-19 in the United States. As of Tuesday, 45 detainees at the facility have tested positive for the virus, up from 13 at the end of last week. Many more are likely to test positive in the coming days.

This week marks the second week in a row where the number of confirmed COVID-19 cases at the Buffalo facility more than tripled in a week. All of the detainees who’ve tested positive were moved to one open dorm, but it has no round-the-clock nurses, a lawyer of one of the detainees said. The facility initially planned to quarantine detainees in solitary confinement. “I am extremely fearful of suffering to death and dying alone without my family,” a detainee told Documented at the time.

Prairieland Detention Center in Alvarado, Texas has the second largest population of coronavirus-positive detainees at 24. Other New York-area detention centers have reported COVID-19 cases, with 2 detainees testing positive in Bergen County Jail, 13 in Elizabeth Detention Center, two in Essex County Correctional Facility, and eight in Hudson County Jail. WXXI News


Documented Hosts Q&A On Housing Rights During COVID-19

Since the COVID-19 pandemic began, members of our WhatsApp community have regularly voiced concerns about getting evicted for not being able to pay rent due to unemployment. They sent us questions about their housing rights during this crisis and what the New York City government has done to protect renters. We posed these questions to Cea Weaver, coordinator of the campaign Housing Justice for All. As for the first question on evictions, the short answer is that New Yorkers cannot get kicked out of their apartments while the current eviction moratorium is active, though renters are still obligated to pay. Read more at Documented.

Undocumented Man Loses Brother to COVID-19 Right After Recovering 

Felipe Idrovo thought his COVID-19 experience was over until he received a call. “They told me in English, ‘Mr. Idrovo I’m so sorry, your brother died at 6 a.m. this morning,'” he said. Pietro Idrovo had succumbed to COVID-19 at the Park Terrace Care Center where he lived after becoming wheelchair-bound and disabled after a hit-and-run accident in 2011. Felipe Idrovo is an undocumented immigrant from Ecuador recently laid off from his warehouse job. Undocumented immigrants like Idrovo face a precarious position as they aren’t included in federal relief funding and city funding has run short. New York Daily News

Asian American Community Leaders Say Official Tally Undercounts Bias and Hate Crimes

Asian American community advocates say official tallies on bias crimes and hate crimes don’t reflect the magnitude of what they’re facing across New York City during the COVID-19 pandemic. “We’ve been suffering from business slowdowns, from bias crimes and hate crimes, and yet [City Hall] is still working on a plan,” said Jo-Ann Yoo, executive director of the Asian-American Federation. The city Commission on Human Rights has said it is launching a special task force to deal with the rise of anti-Asian incidents. Nearly 250 bias incident complaints have been reported to the commission since the start of the year. Of those, 105 were directed at Asian Americans, up from just 3 reported to the NYPD in the same time last year. THE CITY


Report: Smithfield Foods Slow to React to COVID-19 Threat

Representatives for Smithfield Foods blamed its largely immigrant workforce’s “living circumstances” for why the company’s pork processing plant in South Dakota became home to one of the largest known coronavirus clusters in the country, saying “living circumstances in certain cultures are different than they are with your traditional American family.” South Dakota Gov. Kristi Noem (R) agreed, saying without proof that “99 percent” of COVID-19 spread was happening at workers’ homes. A BuzzFeed News investigation showed the company did little to inform or protect employees after the first coronavirus case in the plant surfaced. Smithfield introduced new safety protocols when case counts rose, but applied them unevenly across the plant’s departments. BuzzFeed News

Haitian Deportees Test Positive for COVID-19

Three migrants from the United States who were deported two weeks ago to Haiti have tested positive for COVID-19 while in quarantine in Haiti. When the flight left U.S. soil, Haiti had just 25 confirmed cases. Now it has 47, which could rise further in the coming weeks. Several U.S. lawmakers called out U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement for allowing the flight to happen, as Haiti is particularly vulnerable to an outbreak. The country has just 100 ventilators for 11 million residents. The Haitian Times

ACLU Sues ICE Over Impersonating Police Officers

When ICE agents attempt arrests, they sometimes announce themselves as “police officers” to get people to open doors in what the agency calls a “ruse.” The American Civil Liberties Union is suing the agency over this tactic, saying it’s a violation of the Fourth Amendment to the U.S. Constitution. The ACLU Foundation of Southern California, the UC Irvine School of Law Immigrant Rights Clinic and the law firm Munger, Tolles & Olson LLP, jointly filed a class action lawsuit — which cites Documented’s reporting — in U.S. District Court in Los Angeles to attempt to force ICE to stop impersonating local police officers. LexisNexis

Internal Emails Show USCIS Shares DACA Information with DHS

Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals recipients were misled into thinking their information wouldn’t be shared with ICE agents, internal administration emails obtained under a Freedom of Information Act lawsuit filed by Make the Road New York and shared with ProPublica show. Former President Barack Obama had promised this level of privacy to DACA recipients, and even though President Trump ended the program, his administration said it would generally maintain that promise.  But in one internal email, Gene Hamilton, an appointee at the Department of Homeland Security, wrote that “ICE already has the information,” and “there is no way to take that back.” DHS personnel have “mutual access to some of the electronic systems used by [U.S. Customs and Immigration Enforcement],” the agency that runs DACA, another document read. ProPublica

Trump Halts Green Card Issuance for 60 Days, Family Members Barred from Traveling, Democrats Outraged

President Trump has ordered a temporary stoppage of issuing green cards to prevent people from immigrating to the United States, claiming it’s to prevent the spread of COVID-19. He did not suspend guest worker programs after business groups lobbied against it. His administration has aggressively targeted immigration as a means to stem the spread of COVID-19, despite the fact that the U.S. now has the most cases of any country in the world.

Trump first announced his decision to “suspend immigration” to protect American jobs in a Monday tweet. More than 22 million Americans have lost their jobs due to the economic devastation caused by the COVID-19 pandemic, though there’s no evidence that shows employers are seeking to hire foreign workers to replace them. Trump said the order would take effect for 60 days, but he might extend it “based on economic conditions at the time.”

Trump’s tweet moved his administration staffers and Justice Department lawyers to frantically research whether the president even had the legal authority to cancel issuing green cards. Meanwhile, the decision not to block guest worker programs, which provide visas for technology workers, farm laborers and other groups, was a concession to business groups. Jason Oxman, the president of the Information Technology Industry Council, a trade group, said “the United States will not benefit from shutting down legal immigration.” The New York Times

The order would also bar some family members of U.S. citizens and new immigrants from traveling to the U.S. in the next 60 days. Hardline immigration restrictionists are decrying the move as a campaign ploy to rile up Trump’s voter base and not actual immigration reform. “It’s a PR stunt more than anything else,” one conservative think tank leader said. Democrats also took major issue with the order, which will likely be challenged by advocacy organizations. “This is beyond belief,” Rep. Pramila Jayapal (D-Wash), tweeted. “Suspending immigration & giving into racism & xenophobia won’t solve our problems.” The Wall Street Journal, NBC News

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