Jeremy McKinney, second vice president of the American Immigration Lawyers Association, immediately condemned the administration’s directive, saying “DHS’s new policy requiring attorneys to wear personal protective equipment (PPE) in detention facilities would deny access to counsel for detained immigrants. There is a severe shortage of PPE across the nation. This requirement will make it impossible for lawyers to represent their clients unless they rob health care providers who are working to save the lives of thousands of patients of desperately needed equipment.”
It’s clear that ICE is not only intentionally blocking detainees’ due process through this directive, it’s also worsening the coronavirus public health crisis. ICE is refusing to release even the most vulnerable of detainees from facilities, which are in no way prepared to properly care for sick people on any other day, much less during a pandemic. ICE claims its new directive is for the purposes of “keeping everyone safe, and helping detect and slow the spread of the virus,” but if the agency really meant that, it would release detainees.
Instead, advocacy groups have been forced to sue the administration to try to win the release of parents and children from a number of migrant family jails, where broken soap dispensers in rooms “have not been fixed despite their requests,” the lawsuit stated. “Hand sanitizer is only freely provided in the lobby and legal visitation room at Berks Center—two areas that detainees are not permitted to access. Detainees are housed in shared rooms and cannot remain 6 feet apart for social distancing within the constraints of detention. Sleeping quarters are very cramped,” while the entire facility, including a staff of about 60, eat at the same time in a shared cafeteria.
Does that sound like a place that truly cares about keeping people safe? Nope, and this new policy is no different. People in federal immigration detention deserve to be kept safe from this pandemic, but ICE’s own actions are only pushing them further into government-created danger. “ICE requiring attorneys to supply their own personal protective equipment to serve detained clients, when medical providers say they don’t have enough, is appalling and unconstitutional,” Allen Orr Jr., immigration attorney and former AILA vice president, told Miami Herald.
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