In the past week, there have been various criticisms of how ICE and the Trump administration is handling the COVID-19 pandemic as the virus continues to spread.
- The para-military state is here. U.S. Customs and Border Protection agents invaded the State of Oregon in unmarked vans kidnapping alleged protesters. The Department of Homeland Security says it has the authority and jurisdiction to carry out these extra-judicial kidnappings based on a June 26 executive order by President Donald Trump calling for the protection of statues, monuments, and federal property.
- After the announcement of a new federal rule, which invalidates international student visas if their respective schools are entirely online in the fall semester, Harvard and MIT moved to sue the Trump administration last week. Alongside these universities, 17 states and the District of Colombia also filed a lawsuit challenging the “…unlawful action…” to remove international students during the COVID-19 pandemic. Many criticized the administration’s true intent – forcibly opening schools – underlying the rule, claiming that it unfairly made institutions choose between student health and their international student population. Thankfully, the negative feedback and multiple lawsuits have forced the Trump administration to rescind the rule after both parties reached a resolution in the MIT and Harvard cases.
- COVID-19 continues to impact legal immigrant processes. While USCIS continues to prioritize citizenship hearings, thousands waiting to naturalize will not be able to do so in time to vote in November due to delays caused by COVID-19. Furthermore, with the agency running out of money steadily due to a decline in applications, this is likely to impact other things such as adjustment interviews, the production of work permits and green cards.
- Although a federal judge ruled last week that all children in family detention centers needed to be released by July 17th, 2020, the judge delayed his ruling on whether or not parents would be released alongside their families until the middle of next week. This means that families could start to be separated as soon as this Friday. Parents may be able to choose to have their children stay with them in the detention centers but many say that the migrant families are frightened about the possibility of their children dying in these detention centers. Although many will most likely allow their children to leave the centers for the sake of their health, the parents do not know what will happen once their kids are released.
- As the number of COVID-19 cases in detention centers passes three thousand, detention facilities do not appear to be taking the necessary prevention steps against the virus. This follows the whistleblower letter from the LaSalle Corrections facility in Louisiana, who alleged that the facility warden had told staff not to wear PPE (personal protection equipment). As of now, almost half of all the Louisiana detention center staff has contracted the virus and around a fourth of the migrants detained have also tested positive.
- However, despite these pledges to improve migrant conditions in ICE holding centers, a third immigrant has died after testing positive for COVID-19. Onoval Perez-Montufa died this past Sunday after being hospitalized in a Florida hospital since early July. ICE has stated that Perez-Montufa was under “mandatory detention” after being imprisoned for a cocaine conviction and was not eligible for releasement despite any medical needs.
- A proposal filed last month aims to almost completely overthrow the asylum system in the United States and does not seem to end with the COVID-19 pandemic. Many have criticized the Trump administration’s moves towards restricting immigration by using the pandemic as an excuse, and the June proposal – which would make it more difficult for those escaping from gang violence or gender-related issues to gain asylum in the US – serves to prove these comments correct. Additionally, the rule would allow the Trump administration to block asylum for migrants who spent two weeks in another country during their journey to the US, strips immigrants of their rights to a full hearing, and allows officials to declare asylum claims as “frivolous,” thereby barring them from entry. The proposal follows other immigration restrictions, as Trump’s administration has already blocked migrants from countries with public health emergencies by using their emergency authorization. Although the pandemic will eventually come to an end, it is unclear whether these policies will go with it.
Photo Credit: Fibonacci Blue