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Immigration Law

ICE Guidance on COVID-19 (Mar. 16, 2020)

ICE, Mar. 16, 2020

"Introduction

U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) is working closely with the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) and other federal, state, and local agencies to facilitate a speedy, whole-of-government response in confronting Coronavirus Disease 2019 (COVID-19), keeping everyone safe, and helping detect and slow the spread of the virus. We know that during this time there are a lot of questions about how interactions with ICE officers are being impacted during this public health crisis. The public, media, family members with those in custody, and all other stakeholders are encouraged to revisit this site as often as possible for any updates to this extremely fluid situation.

GENERAL

What is ICE doing in response to the COVID-19 virus?

Law enforcement agencies across the country, to include ICE, are paying close attention to this pandemic. While our law enforcement officers and agents continue daily enforcement operations to make criminal and civil arrests, prioritizing individuals who threaten our national security and public safety, we remain committed to the health and safety of our employees and the general public. It is important for the public to know that ICE does not conduct operations at medical facilities, except under extraordinary circumstances. ICE policy directs our officers to avoid making arrests at sensitive locations – to include schools, places of worship, and health care facilities, such as hospitals, doctors’ offices, accredited health clinics, and emergent or urgent care facilities – without prior approval for an exemption, or in exigent circumstances. See our FAQ for more.

Consistent with federal partners, ICE is taking important steps to further safeguard those in our care. As a precautionary measure, ICE has temporarily suspended social visitation in all detention facilities.

The health, welfare and safety of U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) detainees is one of the agency’s highest priorities. Since the onset of reports of Coronavirus Disease 2019 (COVID-19), ICE epidemiologists have been tracking the outbreak, regularly updating infection prevention and control protocols, and issuing guidance to ICE Health Service Corps (IHSC) staff for the screening and management of potential exposure among detainees.

ICE continues to incorporate CDC’s COVID-19 guidance, which is built upon the already established infectious disease monitoring and management protocols currently in use by the agency. In addition, ICE is actively working with state and local health partners to determine if any detainee requires additional testing or monitoring to combat the spread of the virus.

IMMIGRATION ENFORCEMENT and CHECK-INS

Is ICE considering halting enforcement efforts due to COVID-19?

Law enforcement agencies across the country, to include ICE, are paying close attention to this pandemic. While our law enforcement officers and agents continue daily enforcement operations to make criminal and civil arrests, prioritizing individuals who threaten our national security and public safety, we remain committed to the health and safety of our employees and the general public. It is important for the public to know that ICE does not conduct operations at medical facilities, except under extraordinary circumstances. ICE policy directs our officers to avoid making arrests at sensitive locations – to include schools, places of worship, and health care facilities, such as hospitals, doctors’ offices, accredited health clinics, and emergent or urgent care facilities – without prior approval for an exemption, or in exigent circumstances. See our FAQ for more.

Is ICE making arrests at hospitals?

ICE does not conduct enforcement operations at medical facilities, except under extraordinary circumstances. Claims to the contrary are false and create unnecessary fear within communities. Individuals should continue to seek medical care.

I have a scheduled check-in with my immigration officer, should I go if I’m sick?

If an individual with a scheduled check-in is sick, they should contact the local ICE field office prior to their scheduled appointment for further guidance.

DETENTION

Are there any confirmed cases of COVID-19 in ICE detention facilities?

As of March 13, 2020, there are no confirmed cases of COVID-19 in ICE detention facilities.

What is ICE doing to ensure detainees in custody are well-cared for during this crisis?

Currently, the CDC advises self-monitoring at home for people in the community who meet epidemiologic risk criteria, and who do not have fever or symptoms of respiratory illness. In detention settings, cohorting serves as an alternative to self-monitoring at home.

Comprehensive protocols are in place for the protection of staff and patients, including the appropriate use of personal protective equipment (PPE), in accordance with CDC guidance. ICE has maintained a pandemic workforce protection plan since February 2014, which was last updated in May 2017. This plan provides specific guidance for biological threats such as COVID-19. ICE instituted applicable parts of the plan in January 2020 upon the discovery of the potential threat of COVID-19. The ICE Occupational Safety and Health Office is in contact with relevant offices within the Department of Homeland Security, and in January 2020, the DHS Workforce Safety and Health Division provided DHS components additional guidance to address assumed risks and interim workplace controls. This includes the use of N95 masks, available respirators, and additional personal protective equipment.

ICE testing for COVID-19 complies with CDC guidance. IHSC updates and shares its COVID-19 guidance with field units on a real-time basis. Subjects selected for testing follow CDC’s definition of a person under investigation.

How does ICE screen new detainees for COVID-19?

ICE instituted screening guidance for new detainees who arrive at facilities to identify those who meet CDC’s criteria for epidemiologic risk of exposure to COVID-19. IHSC isolates detainees with fever and/or respiratory symptoms who meet these criteria and observe them for a specified time period. IHSC staff consult with the local health department, as appropriate, to assess the need for testing. Detainees without fever or respiratory symptoms who meet epidemiologic risk criteria are monitored for 14 days.

Can detainees attend medical appointments?

Asymptomatic detainees in isolation can attend all appointments. Symptomatic detainees in isolation must wear a tight-fitting surgical mask to attend essential medical appointments. ICE also notifies the medical provider about the detainee’s status ahead of the appointment to coordinate care and protect staff and other patients.

How does ICE mitigate the spread of COVID-19 within its detention facilities?

Detainees who meet CDC criteria for epidemiologic risk of exposure to COVID-19 are housed separately from the general population. ICE places detainees with fever and/or respiratory symptoms in a single medical housing room, or in a medical airborne infection isolation room specifically designed to contain biological agents, such as COVID-19. This prevents the spread of the agent to other individuals and the general public. ICE transports individuals with moderate to severe symptoms, or those who require higher levels of care or monitoring, to appropriate hospitals with expertise in high risk care. Detainees who do not have fever or symptoms, but meet CDC criteria for epidemiologic risk, are housed separately in a single cell, or as a group, depending on available space.

ICE reviews CDC guidance daily and continues to update protocols to remain consistent with CDC guidance

Will someone who presents symptoms or tests positive for COVID-19 be released from immigration custody?

ICE only has authority to detain individuals for immigration purposes. ICE cannot hold any detainee ordered released by a judge. If ICE must release an ill or isolated detainee, health staff immediately notify the local public health agencies to coordinate further monitoring, if required.

VISITATION AT DETENTION FACILITIES

My family member or friend is currently in ICE custody, will visitation to the facility still be allowed?

ICE, like other law enforcement agencies with a detained population, is taking important steps to further safeguard those in our care and as a precautionary measure, ICE has temporarily suspended social visitation in all of its detention facilities. ICE will continue to collaborate with the CDC, IHSC, and its network of care providers to provide updates and revise procedures as necessary.

How will family member communicate with their family members?

ICE recognizes the substantial impact of temporarily curtailing personal visitation, but the agency has determined it necessary in order to maintain the safety and security of the facility, the detainees and those work at the facility. ICE will take steps to facilitate such communication with families, in the absence of visitation, through extended access to telephones and other reasonable means. ICE will continue to collaborate with the CDC, IHSC, and its network of care providers to provide updates and revise procedures as necessary.

Will individuals in ICE custody be able to meet with their legal representatives?

Non-contact legal visitation, to include the Legal Orientation Program, will continue to be permitted. In order to safeguard visitors, detainees, and ICE and facility staff, official visitors may be subject to special screening and procedures. ICE may impose additional requirements, such as mandating that visitors wear protective equipment. ICE will continue to collaborate with the CDC, IHSC, and its network of care providers to provide updates and revise procedures as necessary.

Will members of Congress be able to visit ICE detention facilities?

Members of Congress, Congressional member delegations and Congressional staff delegations will continue to have access to the facility for the purpose of conducting oversight. In order to safeguard visitors, detainees, and ICE and facility staff, official visitors may be subject to special screening and procedures. ICE may impose additional requirements, such as mandating that visitors wear protective equipment. ICE will continue to collaborate with the CDC, IHSC, and its network of care providers to provide updates and revise procedures as necessary.

REMOVALS

Does ICE medically screen detainees before they board a removal flight to their home country?

The ICE Air flight medical provider conducts a visual screening consistent with current ICE policy and procedures on those detainees lacking medical summary information (new apprehensions) who are delivered to the aircraft. Those detainees who are not “new apprehensions” are brought to the aircraft with medical clearance. Any ICE detainee who fails to pass screening by a flight medical provider and/or is suspected of having a health-risk condition potentially contagious to other detainees, staff and/or third parties, will be denied boarding and referred to an ICE approved facility for screening.

In addition to recently issued IHSC guidance, for ICE Air charter removals, there will be a temperature screening at the flight line, prior to boarding. In accordance with IHSC guidance, any detainee with a temperature of 100.4 degrees or higher will be immediately referred to a medical provider for further evaluation and observation.

NONIMMIGRANT STUDENTS

What guidance has SEVP issued to nonimmigrant students and schools?

The Student and Exchange Visitor Program (SEVP) has issued the following guidance to stakeholders:

  • January 2020: PDF
  • March 2020: PDF

Can nonimmigrant students participate in online classes?

SEVP is committed to remaining flexible in allowing schools to make temporary procedural adaptations so nonimmigrant students can continue to make normal forward progress in their program of study. They can temporarily engage in distance-learning, either from within the U.S. or outside the country, in light of COVID-19. SEVP will provide updated guidance as additional information concerning the scope and length of this situation becomes clearer.

Do schools need to notify SEVP of procedural adaptations?

Yes, schools need to notify SEVP of these adaptation within 10 days. SEVP included notification instructions with guidance to SEVP-certified schools. That guidance can be found here, PDF

Can nonimmigrant students participate in online classes from outside the U.S. and still maintain their nonimmigrant status?

Yes, nonimmigrant students can temporarily engage in distance-learning, either from within the U.S. or outside the country, in light of COVID-19. SEVP will provide updated guidance as additional information concerning the scope and length of this situation becomes clearer. More information can be found here, PDF

Will students be able to return to the United States if they are continuing their studies outside of the country as a result of COVID-19?

Students who continue to make normal progress in their course of study remain eligible for admission into the United States. However, because of the changing array of travel restrictions, nonimmigrant students should refer to their local embassy’s website through the U.S. Department of State for any updates about visa issuance. Also, DHS and CDC websites both provide information about current travel restrictions to the United States."