A number of Senate Democrats have added to the voices calling on the Biden administration to not again detain immigrants who were released from detention due to the pandemic. In a letter led by Massachusetts Sen. Elizabeth Warren, senators write that more than 3,700 immigrants who were allowed to continue their cases from their homes and communities “are now being threatened with re-detention” by Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE). They’re calling for the Biden administration to issue guidance blocking such sweeps.
The letter comes following a similar call by House Democrats earlier this month. They wrote in their letter to the Biden administration that ICE has “actively argued for the re-detention of people previously released by court order solely due to the availability of vaccines and decreased community spread, not as a result of an individualized determination of public safety threat or ability to comply with the terms of release.”
House members noted in their letter that while some ICE offices have claimed they won’t again detain someone they released due to the virus, other ICE offices are ready to go full steam ahead. In their letter, Sen. Warren, Connecticut Sen. Richard Blumenthal, California Sen. Alex Padilla, Massachusetts Sen. Ed Markey, Rhode Island Sen. Sheldon Whitehouse, California Sen. Dianne Feinstein and New Jersey Sens. Cory Booker and and Bob Menendez write it’s “imperative” officials implement agency-wide rules.
“We urge the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) and ICE to issue new guidance for all ICE field offices and the facilities they oversee to not re-detain individuals who have complied with the conditions of their release and who pose no public safety concerns,” legislators write, “as evidenced by the fact that since their release, they have been living safely at home with their families, in compliance with the terms of their court ordered releases and posing no danger to their community.”
Like we’ve previously noted, ICE is again filling up its facilities even though it has no national vaccination plan for detained immigrants. Legislators noted that less than 7% of people in ICE detention have been vaccinated, raising the specter of continued virus outbreaks in immigration detention. “COVID isn't over—and ICE should not re-detain immigrants who have complied with the conditions of their pandemic release and who pose no public safety concerns,” Warren tweeted. “We’re urging @DHSgov and @ICEgov to issue this guidance to their field offices.”
"Individuals who were released from immigration detention to the safety of their families due to serious risks to their health and lives during the COVID-19 pandemic crisis must continue to be treated with dignity," Capital Area Immigrants' Rights (CAIR) Coalition Immigration Impact Lab program director Adina Appelbaum said in a statement. "In valuing their health and safety, the federal courts have recognized the humanity of these men and women. Re-detaining them would mean we are regressing back to a world where immigrants are not seen as human beings."