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Early Arrival: Immigrants Held on Bond While Coronavirus Spreads Through Detention Facilities

Friday's Edition of Early Arrival: Coronavirus Stories You may Have Missed — 2 Guards at Louisiana ICE Detention Facility Die — Judge Allows Trump’s Green Card Ban to Continue

Leobardo Saldana was walking a horse at a ranch he worked at in Dutchess County when a black van pulled up. U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement agents jumped out and asked his manager if they could talk to him. He was soon handcuffed and taken into custody after a driving under the influence conviction put him on their radar. Saldana was then was held at the Buffalo Federal Detention Facility in Batavia for six weeks as the coronavirus spread through the facility.

The facility now has the second highest number of cases of any detention facility in the country, but Saldana was able to be released after the New York Immigrant Freedom Fund paid his $25,000 bond. If it hadn’t, Saldana would have still been locked up and wracked with fear that he could catch the virus. “People were really worried. Especially the people in my area. The people that were infected were put in area one and I was in area three,” Saldana said. He is now staying with family who live outside Albany. 

The average bond charged at Batavia is $12,500, said Lee Wang, the director of the Immigrant Freedom Fund. “That’s right in the middle of a pandemic. Judges are really expecting families to come up with $25,000 to bail out a single person?” Wang said. “You know that is someone who is still facing trial and has not been found to be removable or deportable from the country.” Since the pandemic began, the fund has bonded out 38 immigrant New Yorkers, spending $441,000. The immigration court in Batavia grants bond only 20.9 percent of the time, the third lowest grant rate of the country’s facilities. Albany Times-Union



Since the lockdown in New York began, we at Documented have tried to keep you informed on the coronavirus pandemic’s implications for immigrants in the New York area. We’ve covered immigrant communities that have been hardest hit by the virus, as well as how immigration enforcement has continued throughout the crisis. Here are a handful of the stories that we published in April:

We partnered with Univision 41 to fact check misinformation that was being spread about the coronavirus on WhatsApp and Facebook. Read more here.

As the city made neighborhood data available on the number of coronavirus cases, it became clear that immigrant-heavy neighborhoods in Queens were at theepicenter of the crisis. Read more here.

ICE has continued operations during the crisis, including arresting teenagers from shelters and transferring them to detention centers, where the virus is spreading like wildfire. One teen was arrested at a shelter Westchester, New York, on his 18th birthday andtransferred to an Orange County jail. Read more here. 

We also published a number of resources for immigrants who are trying to navigate the current crisis. All those resources have been collected in Spanish in one master resource guide published here.

6 People Die of COVID-19 at Long Island Warehouse 

At least six people who worked in a Long Island warehouse leased by Broadridge Financial Solutions have died of COVID-19, according to family members and news reports. The facility has a large immigrant staff and earlier this month, employees of TMG Mail Solutions, a Broadridge contractor, were pressured to work during the COVID-19 pandemic even after workers had tested positive for the virus. The workers had also expressed concern over the company’s slow response to provide protective equipment like masks and gloves. “Our thoughts are with the families and co-workers at this difficult time,” Broadridge spokesperson Gregg Rosenberg wrote in an email. The Intercept

ICE Documents Detail How Poor Health Care Led to Death of Detained Man

Internal ICE documents obtained by the Project on Government Oversight reveal how poor health care in detention may have contributed to the death of a man held at the Hudson County Jail in New Jersey. Carlos Mejia-Bonilla was a Salvadoran immigrant who was held at the jail and told health care workers he was taking medication for multiple health conditions, including diabetes, anemia, high blood pressure and cirrhosis of the liver. They only gave him treatment for diabetes, according to the documents. ICE’s internal investigation concluded Bonilla was denied necessary care and what he did receive was “outside the scope of safe practice.” Project on Government Oversight

Lawsuit Says EOIR is Endangering Lawyers and Clients by Keeping the Courts Open

A recently filed lawsuit from Legal Services NYC argues New York City’s immigration court is endangering the lives of immigrants and their lawyers by keeping case-filing deadlines in place during the COVID-19 outbreak. The Executive Office for Immigration Review “forces [New York City] litigants and their lawyers to leave their homes unnecessarily to go to a copy store and their offices, and to the post office or another delivery service and in doing so to fail to maintain appropriate social distancing,” Legal Services NYC maintains in the suit. The group claims EOIR has ignored New York’s emergency declaration and has violated orders from New York state and the city to close all non-essential business. New York Law Journal


2 Guards at Louisiana ICE Detention Facility Die 

Two guards at the Louisiana Richwood Correctional Center, where 45 ICE detainees have tested positive for COVID-19, have died in recent days. COVID-19 test results are still pending for the guards, but their coworkers attributed their deaths to the virus. LaSalle Corrections runs the private prison, but ICE pays it to detain immigrants. The facility has the third-highest number of detainees who have tested positive for the virus. A federal judge in Florida recently ordered the release of most detainees held in detention at three south Florida facilities, citing conditions that amount to “cruel and unusual punishment.” Mother Jones, The Miami Herald

Report Details Shoddy Healthcare in ICE Detention Nationwide

Manuel Amaya-Portillo, a Honduran asylum-seeker, was so distraught in a Louisiana detention facility last year that he “felt like there was no longer any reason to continue living,” Amaya-Portillo recently told CBS News. The American Civil Liberties Union intervened in Amaya-Portillo’s case and he was released from detention, but the growing number of cases like Amaya-Portillo’s have alarmed advocates. They say the detention system is ill-equipped to confront any health issues among detainees under their watch, making a public health crisis like the coronavirus pandemic exceptionally problematic. A new joint report from the ACLU, Human Rights Watch and the National Immigrant Justice Center extensively details the repeated mismanagement and poor health care given in these facilities. CBS News

72 ICE Detainees Transferred to Other Facilities Despite Pandemic

72 ICE detainees were moved from the Buffalo Federal Detention Facility in Batavia, New York, and the Pike County Correctional Facility in Lords Valley, Pennsylvania, to Prairieland Detention Center in Alvarado, Texas, in April, apparently to protect them from the spread of COVID-19. Since then, nearly two dozen of those detainees have tested positive for the virus. The Batavia facility had seven known coronavirus cases when the transfers happened and now has 49, while the Pike County facility had 5 before the transfer and now has 16. Government officials said the move was made to allow for social distancing. BuzzFeed News

Two Detention Officers Sue Over Poor Safety Conditions

Two officers at the Otay Mesa Detention Center in San Diego have filed a lawsuit against CoreCivic, the private company that runs the facility, for allegedly failing to take reasonable steps to protect workers’ health during the COVID-19 pandemic and creating a dangerous workplace. At least 167 detainees, 22 CoreCivic employees and nine medical staff have also tested positive for the virus, the San Diego Union-Tribune reports. Smith and Arnold both have underlying health conditions. They accuse CoreCivic of failing to provide face coverings or allowing them to wear their own masks in crowded housing units. San Diego Union-Tribune

Federal Government Sued Over Immigrant Spouse Stimulus Denial

The federal government is being sued over denying coronavirus relief payments to U.S. citizens who are married to immigrants without social security numbers. The lawsuit was filed in Maryland on Tuesday on behalf of six American citizens who were denied coronavirus relief checks because they paid taxes with a spouse who has an Individual Taxpayer Identification Number. The Mexican American Legal Defense and Educational Fund, which is suing the government, says the Treasury Department is violating Americans’ First and Fifth Amendment rights by denying their payment based on who they’re married to. The Associated Press

Washington — Judge Allows Trump’s Green Card Ban to Continue, Trump Threatens to Cut Aid from Sanctuary Cities

President Trump’s executive order to ban the issuance of green cards for many immigrants for the next 60 days due over coronavirus pandemic will be allowed to stand, U.S. District Judge Michael Simon, a federal judge in Oregon, decided Wednesday.

Simon did side with plaintiffs who filed this lawsuit in their previous suit against the president, which concerned denying visas to people who could not pay for their own health insurance. But Simon said it was outside his authority to stop the coronavirus-related immigration freeze just because it might apply to plaintiffs in the previous lawsuit. Doing so would be “untenable” as it would stop any attempt by a president to temporarily restrict immigration for urgent national security reasons, Simon said.

Trump ordered the 60-day halt on issuing green cards last week, leaving several exceptions in place, including for people already in the U.S. and spouses of U.S. citizens. PoliticoThe 7th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals in Chicago upheld a previous ruling against the Trump administration on Thursday, blocking it from withholding funds from so-called “sanctuary cities.” The Trump administration had sought to block the issuance of certain Justice Department grants for law enforcement in sanctuary cities unless those cities cooperated with federal law enforcement. The city of Chicago sued the administration over the policy and a judge ruled against the Trump administration, disrupting the policy nationwide. Trump recently said he would only offer stimulus packages to cities and states if they reversed sanctuary policies. Reuters, CNN

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