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Early Arrival: Lawsuit Calls for Release of All ICE Detainees from New Jersey Facility

Monday's Edition of Early Arrival: U.S.–Canada Border Shut Down to Asylum Seekers — ICE Asks Parents to Separate from Their Children — USCIS May Go Bankrupt

Lawyers representing immigrants detained by Immigration and Customs Enforcement at an Elizabeth, New Jersey, detention center filed a class-action lawsuit on Friday demanding the release of all 114 detainees at the facility.

The lawyers argue that everyone at the facility is at risk of dying due to COVID-19. One officer at the jail died due to virus, CoreCivic, the private company that runs that facility, announced last week. Another 17 officers have tested positive, while some have recovered and returned to work. According to ICE, 18 detainees have also tested positive. 

The plaintiffs in the lawsuit argue conditions at the facility, such as closely packed beds, put them at acute risk of catching the virus. Detainees have said there are limited cleaning supplies and that they have to use single-use disposable masks for at least two weeks. Lawyers in Massachusetts filed a similar class-action lawsuit. 

Three county jails in New Jersey hold contracts with ICE to detain immigrants, and lawyers argue they have been more transparent about the state of the outbreak than CoreCivic has. Gothamist/WNYC

Local

U.S.–Canada Border Shut Down to Asylum Seekers

Five Mexican immigrants who crossed the border illegally in Maine were returned to Canada under new rules put in place during the COVID-19 pandemic. Asylum seekers crossing the U.S.–Canada border are being sent back in both directions due to orders from both governments that allow them to quickly deport people crossing the border on public health grounds. This has all but ended the use of Roxham Road in Champlain, New York, a well-known route for asylum seekers fleeing the U.S. to seek asylum in Canada. There have been 27 expulsions by the U.S. and 26 by the Canadian government during the pandemic. Associated Press

Little Manilla Residents Create Fund to Feed Filipino Health Workers

A group of Filipinos in the Little Manilla neighborhood of Woodside, Queens, has set up a mutual aid initiative called Meal to Heal amid the pandemic. The group brings free meals to hospitals heavily staffed by Filipinos while also raising funds to help Filipino restaurants struggling due to the pandemic. Filipinos account for 1% of the U.S. population but 7% of the health care workforce, and nearly a quarter of the adults with Filipino ancestry in the New York-New Jersey region work in hospitals or other medical fields, according to census data. The founders raised funds to pay for meals they provide to hospitals. PRI

Indigenous Mexicans Face Language Barriers in Getting Care

At least 28 indigenous immigrants from the mountain region of Guerrero in Mexico have died from COVID-19 in New York City, according to the Mexican Human Rights organization Tlachinollan. The organization estimates 200,000 New Yorkers come from indigenous areas and face intense language barriers when getting access to care. Translations for people who speak Tu’un Savi, or Mixtec, part of a group of Mesoamerican languages, are not as available as those who speak Spanish, and that can have deadly consequences, especially during a pandemic. Some organizations have worked to provide health care resources in indigenous languages. NBC News

National

ICE Asks Parents to Separate from Their Children

ICE agents gave detained immigrant parents a choice starting on Thursday: separate from your child or stay together in detention indefinitely. According to advocates, this ultimatum was presented to parents in all three of ICE’s family detention centers. The children are placed with family members, sponsors or in the care of the Department of Health and Human Services. Advocates argue parents may consider allowing their children to leave to fear of catching the virus in detention. A federal judge ordered ICE to release all children in its custody due to the pandemic and the agency said it is attempting to comply. NBC News

Asylum Seekers Reunited with Families After Being Placed in MPP

Five Central American asylum seekers will be allowed to reunite with their families in Massachusetts, a federal judge ruled Thursday. The migrants had been placed in the Migrant Protection Protocols program, in which immigrants are forced to wait in Mexico for their cases to be adjudicated. The plaintiffs argued they had been living in dangerous conditions in the Mexican border town of Matamoros. They are among more than 60,000 migrants who have been placed in the controversial program. The judge’s ruling allows the five asylum seekers from Guatemala and El Salvador to reunite with their families while their cases are adjudicated. Associated Press

Mexicans Struggle to Send Deceased Family Members Home

As of May 5, more than 660 Mexican citizens had died from COVID-19 in the U.S. Only one body had been repatriated in Mexico, according to a spokesperson for the Mexican government. Urns have left the U.S. and began the journey south, a spokesperson said, but it was unclear how many. Prior to the pandemic, an average of 375 bodies were repatriated each month, but families must now contend with a number of COVID-19 related restrictions on both sides of the border. Reduced hours among consular staff have caused paperwork delays and commercial airlines prohibit the transportations of caskets carrying COVID-19 victims. Mother Jones

ICE and CBP Test Out DNA Collection

ICE has begun a pilot project in Dallas to begin collecting DNA samples from its detainees. Customs and Border Protection has started a similar pilot program. The programs are an implementation of the 2005 DNA Fingerprint Act, which directed the Department of Homeland Security to collect DNA samples. ICE is using the FBI’s DNA collections kits and collected data will be uploaded into a national DNA system to see if they match with crimes in the system. Children under 13 years old will be exempt from collection. ICE has resisted joining the program in the past because it views it as cumbersome with little upshot. Politico

Lawmakers Request Haitian Death Squad Leader Remains in ICE Detention

Two U.S. lawmakers are asking ICE to keep Haitian death squad leader Emmanuel “Toto” Constant detained. The Haitian government requires more time to provide a plan to ensure the safety of Constant’s victims and a way to ensure his prosecution under Haitian law, the lawmakers said. Constant was the founder of a brutal paramilitary organization and is currently in ICE detention. He was previously released and scheduled for a deportation flight to Haiti, but the flight was canceled after several of its slated passengers tested positive for COVID-19. Haitian Times

Washington — USCIS May Go Bankrupt, House Includes Aid for Immigrants in Latest Stimulus

A drop in the number of immigration and citizenship applications has threatened the solvency of the U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services, the agency responsible for visas, green cards, and citizenship adjudication. 

USCIS is almost entirely funded by fees it receives for these applications, which have plummeted during the pandemic and were trending downward through Trump’s presidency. The agency is now seeking a $1.2 billion allocation from Congress. A spokesperson for the agency said its receipts could plummet by more than 60 percent by the end of September and without the allocation, it would be unable to fund its operations in a few months. 

Trump’s strict immigration measures have also created backlogs and application denials that some argue have hindered the agency’s revenue capacity.  Of the agency’s $4.8 billion 2020 budget, 97% was expected to come from fees that have evaporated in the pandemic as almost all visa services have ground to a halt. The New York Times

The latest coronavirus stimulus bill passed by the Democrat-controlled House included a number of provisions aimed at immigrants. These included cash payments to immigrants and their families, releasing all immigrants who don’t pose a risk to public safety or national security from detention, blocking the deportation of essential workers, making it easier for foreign professionals to fight coronavirus, and guaranteeing immigrants access to health benefits. The bill has little chance of passing the GOP-held Senate. Vox

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