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Immigration Detention and Release Policies Fatally Flawed

May 05, 2020 (1 min read)

Donald Kerwin, May 2, 2020

"In late March, I argued in an earlier version of this paper that the US Department of Homeland Security (DHS) should immediately embark on an aggressive program of release, supervised release and alternative-to-detention (ATD) programs for immigrant detainees in response to the Coronavirus Disease 2019 (COVID-19) pandemic.  Since that time, the number of immigrants in Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) detention has fallen by nearly 8,400, but not nearly as fast or dramatically as necessary, given the perilous conditions in which nearly 30,000 immigrant detainees remain and how rapidly the virus has swept through immigrant detention facilities throughout the country and beyond.

... As previously argued in this regularly updated paper, immigrant detention is intended to serve two main purposes, to ensure that non-citizens appear for their removal proceedings and to protect the public. Yet in the current circumstances, detention imperils detainees, the staff and contractors at detention facilities, court officials, health care providers, the public, communities that host detention centers, and those to which detainees eventually return. ICE has adopted unenforceable policies and practices that do not reflect the severity of this crisis. It cannot safeguard those in its custody and should move with alacrity to release far more immigrants. Detention should not be a death sentence."