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Immigration Law

ICE COVID-19 Updates: Apr. 7, 2020

ICE, Apr. 7, 2020

"What has ICE done to protect detainees in ICE custody?

In March, ICE's Enforcement and Removal Operations (ERO) convened a working group of medical professionals, disease control specialists, detention experts, and field operators to identify additional enhanced steps to minimize the spread of the virus. ICE is evaluating its detained population based upon the CDC's guidance for people who might be at higher risk for severe illness as a result of COVID-19 to determine whether continued detention was appropriate. ICE initially identified Approximately 600 detainees over the age of 60 or pregnant whose cases were reviewed. Of this population, ICE identified more than 160 individuals for release after evaluating their medical history, immigration history, criminal record, potential threat to public safety, flight risk, and national security concerns. This same evaluation methodology is currently being applied to other potentially vulnerable populations in custody as well as while making custody determinations for all new arrests. Additionally, ERO has limited the intake of new detainees being introduced into the ICE detention system.

Customs and Border Protection (CBP) is also currently exercising Health and Human Services Title 42 U.S.C. § 265, authority to prohibit the introduction of certain persons into the United States who, due to the existence of COVID-19 in countries or places from which persons are traveling, create an increase in the serious danger of the introduction of such disease into the United States. This has resulted in a drastic decrease in referrals from CBP. As a result of ICE's response to COVID-19 and fewer CBP referrals, ICE's detained population has dropped by more than 4,000 individuals since March 1, 2020 with a more than 60 percent decrease in book-ins when compared to this time last year.

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. ERO has also encouraged facilities to isolate new admissions into the detention network for 14 days before placing them into general population.

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.

How are ICE detention facilities engaging in social distancing?

In March, ICE's ERO convened a working group of medical professionals, disease control specialists, detention experts, and field operators to identify additional enhanced steps to minimize the spread of the virus. As a result of the working group, ERO decided to reduce the population of all detention facilities to 75 percent or less to increase social distancing. Detention facilities may also increase social distancing by having staggered meals and recreation times in order to limit the number of detainees gathered together. All community service projects are suspended until further notice."