A group of House Democrats sent a letter to immigration officials this week demanding that Immigration and Customs Enforcement stop re-detaining illegal immigrants who were released during the coronavirus pandemic.
The 40 Democrats, led by Rep. Pramila Jayapal, D-Wash., claimed ICE’s “inconsistent” detention of illegal immigrants had resulted in “great uncertainty.”
“Specifically, we urge you to refrain from re-detaining individuals previously released due to COVID-19 solely due to the improving pandemic conditions and to continue robust safety measures in ICE detention centers, including access to vaccines,” the Democrats wrote.
“These steps are vital to fulfilling your obligations to protect the health and safety of people in ICE custody, ICE staff, and the families who live in the communities where ICE detention centers exist,” they added.
As of May 31, there were more than 16,000 cases of the coronavirus reported in ICE facilities, the Democrats said.
The rate of infection in these buildings is “20 times greater than in the general public,” the letter claimed.
“Re-detaining individuals solely as a result of our nation’s recovery from the pandemic is unacceptable,” it said.
Illegal immigrants deserve to live “safely at home with their families,” the Democrats said, claiming they “pose no danger to the community.”
The Biden administration has been releasing illegal immigrants because of coronavirus outbreaks in detention facilities, but also because there are not enough facilities to care for the thousands of migrants seeking access to the U.S. every month.
In May, border officials reported arresting more than 180,000 illegal immigrants, which is the highest number in the past 20 years.
Only about 8,000 of those immigrants were denied entry at a port. The rest crossed the border illegally through unfenced areas.