House Democrats Urge DHS, ICE Not to Re-detain People Released Due to COVID

House Democrats Urge DHS, ICE Not to Re-detain People Released Due to COVID pramilia jayapal holds up hand while speaking Rep. Pramila Jayapal, D-Wash., holds a news conference on March 01, 2021, in Washington, D.C. (Chip Somodevilla/Getty Images)

By Charlie McCarthy | Wednesday, 09 June 2021 11:14 AM

Dozens of House Democrats have urged officials not to re-detain previously released migrants as a result of improving conditions in relation to the pandemic, Politico reported Wednesday.

Rep. Pramila Jayapal, D-Wash., led a group of lawmakers who wrote to Department of Homeland Security Secretary Alejandro Mayorkas and Immigration and Customs Enforcement Acting Director Tae Johnson, and encouraged them not to seek the detention of people previously released due to COVID-19.

"We respectfully request that DHS and ICE take prompt action to ensure that there is a clear policy regarding individuals who have been released from detention due to COVID-19, and that no one is re-detained solely as a result of our nation’s recovery from the pandemic," the lawmakers wrote, The Hill said.

"In addition, we request that DHS and ICE ensure that health and safety measures, releases from custody, and vaccination protocols are reviewed, improved, and enacted at detention facilities to ensure robust protections for those that remain detained."

Concerns remain about the spread of the coronavirus in ICE detention facilities.

Politico said the lawmakers, citing government data, wrote that more than 16,000 detained migrants had contracted the virus while in ICE custody, and the prevalence in such facilities was 20 times greater than in the general public.

Thousands of migrants have been ordered released by federal courts.

The representatives praised ICE for following the courts' orders, and asked the agency to provide clearer guidance as to whether it intends on re-detaining those individuals as the pandemic lessens around the country.

"The overwhelming majority of these individuals are now living safely at home with their families, with clear improvements to their health," the letter said. "They are now providing valuable support to their communities and loved ones, in compliance with the terms of their release, posing no danger to the community.

"These formerly detained people, however, continue to live with the constant fear of re-detention by ICE. ICE’s position regarding the re-detention of people released due to COVID-19 has been inconsistent across individual Field Offices, causing great uncertainty for formerly detained people. As of now, there seems to be no clear indication as to the Agency’s position regarding re-detention of medically vulnerable people released as a result of a nationwide class action suit."

Last month, Jayapal said she was instrumental in getting the Biden administration to shut down a Georgia immigration detention center in which a doctor was performing hysterectomies on women without their consent.

"Well, this is a really, really big step forward," Jayapal said. "I was the first person to start speaking out on the Irwin Detention Center and calling for it to be closed down."

At the time, Jayapal said she believed the closing of the center would start a trend to shut down all for-profit immigration detention centers.

"These people don’t need to be in there," Jayapal said. "The vast majority of them #1. And #2 for the people that do need to be in there we can have them in public facilities that have real accountability."

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