Updates

Impact of COVID-19 on the Immigration System

The past few months have been a very challenging time for almost everyone in our country, but we have seen daily how the coronavirus epidemic is disproportionately impacting the most vulnerable members of our society.  Migrants and those who serve the migrant community have been among the most impacted given the Executive Office for Immigration Review's (EOIR) failure to close all immigration courts, the conditions in immigration detention (which are not conducive to social distancing), and the government's recent actions to close the Southern border to asylum seekers and others.  To keep its members informed during this time, the Commission on Immigration has been compiling summaries of developments in the immigration system related to COVID-19. The latest summaries can be found below.  This page will be updated weekly.

October 26, 2020

Status of Immigration Courts and USCIS offices:

  •  On Monday, EOIR announced that hearings in non-detained cases at courts without an announced opening date are postponed through November 6, 2020.  Current information on EOIR's operational status is available here

Detention Issues:

  •  There are currently 6,755 individuals who are or were in ICE custody and who have tested positive for COVID-19 since testing began in February 2020; 647 individuals were in custody and in isolation or monitoring as of October 21, 2020.  ICE had tested 50,105 individuals in its custody for COVID-19 as of October 16, 2020. 
  • According to ICE statistics, there were 18,827 individuals in detention as of October 16, 2020. 
  • Freedom for Immigrants released its October update on COVID-19 in ICE detention.  Freedom for Immigrants also continues to update its Detention Map that tracks reported COVID-19 cases at detention facilities around the country, as well as reported quarantines, inadequate sanitary conditions and other information.  
  • The Rapid Defense Network is tracking litigation around the country seeking the release of individuals who remain in ICE custody here.   
  • The Bronx Defenders, along with others, have launched a database that summarizes decisions in COVID-19 related cases for individuals in detention, and flags certain features of the decisions, including legal claims, defenses, pre-existing health conditions, whether there was a COVID-19 diagnosis, any past criminal convictions, conditions of release, and outcome.   
  • Last week, the district judge handling the lawsuit about conditions at the Adelanto Immigration and Customs Enforcement Processing Center issued an order requiring the government to reduce the population of Adelanto by at least 50 individuals per day until the population is at or below 475.  The court further ordered that the government could not transfer individuals for the sole purpose of complying with the order.  The order also set forth how the government should prioritize releases.
  • The Washington Post covered today’s status conference in the Flores case.  The Court has not issued an order based on today’s conference.
  • On October 4, 2020 the Ninth Circuit denied the government’s motion to stay the district court’s order in Flores that prevents DHS from detaining certain minors in hotels for more than a few days in the process of expelling them.  The Ninth Circuit held that the government was unlikely to succeed on the merits of its appeal and had not shown it would be irreparably harmed if it were obligated to comply with the district court order while the appeal is pending. 
  • On October 8, 2020, the court granted-in-part plaintiffs’ motion to enforce the COVID preliminary injunction in Fraihat.  The order is attached.  Among other things, the court ordered more widespread and regular testing of medically-vulnerable individuals; held that punitive housing as a form of COVID-19 prevention is not allowed; required more concrete transfer protocols to protect medically-vulnerable people; and prohibited blanket or cursory release denials.  The court added that, only in rare cases should a medically vulnerable detained individual who is not subject to mandatory detention remain detained, and any exceptions must be supported by specific justifications. With respect to people who are subject to mandatory detention, the court said that defendants must perform an individualized assessment, and should only continue to detain someone after consideration of the risk of severe illness or death, with due regard to the public health emergency.
  • Reuters reports on the increase in the average amount of time that migrants are spending in detention as compared to this time last year.  Newsy focuses on the impact on Cuban nationals.
  • Buzzfeed reported on a draft DHS report acknowledging that transfers between facilities contributed to COVID-19 outbreaks and that poor information sharing made tracking and preventing the spread of the virus more difficult.

Effects of Southern Border Closure on Asylum Seekers: 

  •  Last week CBP released its Fiscal Year 2020 southwest border migration, enforcement, custody and transfer, and MPP statistics.  The Southwest border encounter statistics can be found here.  Information on Title 42 expulsions can be found here.  Enforcement statistics can be found here.  Statistics on MPP can be found here. The Custody and Transfer Statistics can be found here.  The Texas Tribune published an article analyzing the Southwest border apprehension numbers and the press conference announcing the statistics.
  • Late last week, the CDC announced the issuance of the final order suspending the introduction of individuals traveling from Canada or Mexico who would otherwise be placed in CBP custody.  The order took effect on October 13, 2020 and replaces the March 20, 2020 CDC order.  The order is substantially similar to the original March order, but the new order does not apply to any non-citizen who must test negative for COVID-19 before they are expelled to their home country.  The order will be in effect until the CDC Director determines that its continuation is no longer necessary to protect the public health.  The text of the order also contains statistics about the daily average population in CBP custody, as well as the number (and nationality) of non-citizens DHS has determined were subject to the CDC order. A copy of the notice and the order are attached.
  • On Monday, DHS announced that restrictions on non-essential travel at U.S. ports of entry with Mexico and Canada will be extended through November 21, 2020.  This measure is distinct from the CDC order.
  • Earlier this week, TRAC reported that the number of MPP cases filed in immigration court rose in September of 2020, to 1,133.  This is the highest number of MPP cases filed in a month since the beginning of the pandemic, though the number has been increasing since early summer.
  • This week, KERA News did a series of stories profiling asylum-seeking families in Juarez who are waiting for their MPP cases in the United States to continue. 

October 2, 2020

Status of Immigration Courts and USCIS offices:

  •  On Monday, EOIR announced that hearings in non-detained cases at courts without an announced opening date are postponed through October 16, 2020.  Current information on EOIR's operational status is available here
  • A group of Senators announced earlier this week that the Government Accountability Office would investigate EOIR practices during the Trump Administration, including its management of the immigration courts during COVID-19.
  • The American Immigration Council released an updated version of “The Impact of COVID-19 on Noncitizens and Across the U.S. Immigration System.”

Detention Issues:

  •  There are currently 6,271 individuals who are or were in ICE custody and who have tested positive for COVID-19 since testing began in February 2020; 657 individuals were in custody and in isolation or monitoring as of September 30, 2020.  ICE had tested 42,366 individuals in its custody for COVID-19 as of September 25, 2020. 
  • Last weekend, a Marshallese man died of COVID-19 at a Louisiana hospital while in ICE custody at Winn Correctional Center.  At the time, the gentleman was awaiting removal to the Marshall Islands pursuant to an administrative removal order.  He was the eighth person to die of COVID-19 while in ICE custody.  CNN reported this week on the record number of deaths in ICE custody during the 2020 fiscal year. 
  • As the Miami Herald reported, late last Friday ICE updated the “ICE Guidance on Coronavirus” section on Immigration Enforcement and Check-Ins webpage to suggest that it will be resuming regular enforcement operations.
  • According to ICE statistics, there were 19,791 individuals in detention as of September 25, 2020. 
  • Freedom for Immigrants published its most recent monthly analysis and update on COVID-19 in immigration detention. This update includes information about continued inaccuracies, omissions, and delays in ICE’s reporting on confirmed cases of COVID-19, continued barriers to access to COVID-19 testing for individuals experiencing symptoms, transfers as a form of retaliation for organizing, and prolonged detention causing many to experience mental health struggles. Freedom for Immigrants also continues to update its Detention Map that tracks reported COVID-19 cases at detention facilities around the country, as well as reported quarantines, inadequate sanitary conditions and other information.  
  • The Rapid Defense Network is tracking litigation around the country seeking the release of individuals who remain in ICE custody here.   
  • The Bronx Defenders, along with others, have launched a database that summarizes decisions in COVID-19 related cases for individuals in detention, and flags certain features of the decisions, including legal claims, defenses, pre-existing health conditions, whether there was a COVID-19 diagnosis, any past criminal convictions, conditions of release, and outcome.   
  • On Wednesday, the Ninth Circuit held oral argument on the government’s request for a stay of the district court’s order in Flores that prevented the government from holding minors in hotels before expelling them. You can watch the oral argument here. The same day the panel extended the temporary administrative stay of the district court’s order through October 5, 2020. CBS News covered the argument and reported that, since September 11, the government has not used hotels to house minors before they are expelled. 
  • The Los Angeles Times covers a preliminary injunction issued by a district court judge in Central California regarding conditions at the Adelanto ICE processing center after a remand from the Ninth Circuit in a decision covered in last week’s email. The judge ordered ICE to file a population reduction plan with the court, halt intakes to the facility pending further order of the court, offer weekly testing to all detained individuals, and file a weekly census of detained individuals with the court.  The court also ordered certain safety precautions, and that PPE be provided to detained individuals.  The court issued the order in response to an outbreak that is spreading throughout the facility and found that ICE’s response remains inadequate and objectively unreasonable.

Effects of Southern Border Closure on Asylum Seekers: 

  • Last Friday a magistrate judge in Washington, DC issued a report and recommendation recommending that the district court in the putative class action challenging the CDC order as it applies to unaccompanied minors provisionally certify a class and that plaintiffs’ motion for a preliminary injunction enjoining the government from expelling class members be granted. The parties will brief any objections to the report and recommendation before the district court determines whether to adopt the report and recommendation. 
  • USCIS has released data regarding credible and reasonable fear case receipts from August 1 through September 15, 2020.

September 25, 2020

Status of Immigration Courts and USCIS offices:

  • On Monday, EOIR announced that hearings in non-detained cases at courts without an announced opening date are postponed through October 9, 2020.  Current information on EOIR's operational status is available here
  • Earlier this week, USCIS published a temporary final rule that is in effect from September 23, 2020 through March 22, 2021 and provides that asylum applicants who cannot proceed with an interview in English are no longer required to provide interpreters at the asylum interview but rather must proceed with DHS-provided telephonic interpreters, if the applicant speaks one of 47 specified languages.  The rule is meant to allow USCIS to conduct more in-person asylum interviews without compromising safety during the pandemic.   Law 360 covered the rule.

Detention Issues:

  • There are currently 6,074 individuals who are or were in ICE custody and who have tested positive for COVID-19 since testing began in February 2020; 596 individuals were in custody and in isolation or monitoring as of September 23, 2020.  ICE had tested 39,443 individuals in its custody for COVID-19 as of September 18, 2020. 
  • There was another tragic death in ICE custody this week.  A 61-year old Mexican national died from COVID-19 at a hospital in Georgia after being held at Stewart Detention Center.  As BuzzFeed reports, a judge had ordered the gentleman released from federal criminal custody months earlier due to serious medical conditions that made him vulnerable if he were to contract the disease.  But instead of being released the gentleman was transferred to ICE custody.  This is the third COVID-related death of an individual detained at Stewart.
  • According to ICE statistics, there were 20,097 individuals in detention as of September 18, 2020, barely any decline from the prior week. 
  • Freedom for Immigrants continues to update its Detention Map that tracks reported COVID-19 cases at detention facilities around the country, as well as reported quarantines, inadequate sanitary conditions and other information.  
  • The Rapid Defense Network is tracking litigation around the country seeking the release of individuals who remain in ICE custody here.   
  • The Bronx Defenders, along with others, have launched a database that summarizes decisions in COVID-19 related cases for individuals in detention, and flags certain features of the decisions, including legal claims, defenses, pre-existing health conditions, whether there was a COVID-19 diagnosis, any past criminal convictions, conditions of release, and outcome.   
  • Reuters reported that the Mexican government is in conversation with six women who may have been subjected to improper medical procedures of the type alleged in a whistleblower complaint covered in last week’s email, and Buzzfeed reported on four cases where the doctor who was the subject of the complaint conducted medical procedures without detained female patients’ informed consent.
  • On Monday, the district court in Flores denied the government’s request for a stay of its order preventing the use of hotels to hold minors before expelling them, saying that the government merely recycled previously advanced arguments, and that the factual contentions in the declarations highlighted in last week’s emails lacked support.  The court ordered that its prior September 4 ruling would become effective on September 28, 2020, but modified its prior order to provide that DHS may use brief hotel stays up to 72 hours “as necessary and in good faith to alleviate bottlenecks in the intake processes at licensed facilities.” DHS also must notify plaintiffs’ counsel and the independent monitor of any transfers.  The government appealed the district court’s order before the Ninth Circuit yesterday, and proposed a briefing schedule and an administrative stay of the district court’s order through September 30, 2020.  Plaintiffs agreed to the administrative stay.  Law 360 covered the district court’s ruling.  The Arizona Republic analyzed the information provided by the government declarations in the Flores case, with a focus on the number of children held in Arizona hotels.
  • Earlier this week, the district court in Flores also ruled on plaintiffs’ motion to enforce the settlement agreement as it relates to defendants’ failure to release class members from family detention centers without unnecessary delay during COVID-19.  The district court ordered ICE to disseminate a notice of rights to class members, and to issue to its employees an updated policy and instruction on the settlement agreement. The notice of rights will be further negotiated by the parties and reviewed by the court.  As the court explained in its ruling: “Notice is . . . an essential precursor to Class Members and their parents making informed, though difficult, decisions regarding whether to consent to Class Members’ FSA rights to expeditious release or stand on the Ms. L right to not be separated. As a practical matter, as the Court has already warned Defendants, if any Class Members and their parents seek to make such a choice, ICE must have a procedure in place to process that request, vet potential sponsors, and release the Class Member. Thus, in order for ICE to perform its obligations under the FSA, while refusing to release certain parents, ICE must provide Class Members with a clear, non-coercive notice of rights and a procedure by which Class Members and their parents can affirmatively, knowingly, and voluntarily consent to the release of a child to a vetted custodian under” the settlement agreement.  That decision is attached.
  • The Majority Staff of the House Homeland Security Committee released a report on conditions in ICE detention. The report was based on visits to eight detention centers, conversations with local ICE and facility leadership, interviews with migrants who were being detained at those facilities, reviews of inspection reports, and briefings from DHS and NGOs. The report found failures in ICE’s oversight; its decision to contract with facilities that were not equipped to meet ICE’s detention standards; deficient medical, dental, and mental health care; the misuse and abuse of segregation; and difficulties for detained individuals in accessing legal services, case information, and interpreter/translation services. The Washington Post covered the report.
  • This afternoon the House Subcommittee on Civil Rights and Civil Liberties released a staff report on deficient medical care by for-profit ICE detention contractors. The Subcommittee issued a press release with more details about the report.
  • Earlier this week, the Ninth Circuit vacated an earlier stay of the district court’s preliminary injunction addressing conditions at the Adelanto Immigration and Customs Enforcement Processing Center in California, affirmed the preliminary injunction in part, and remanded for the district court to consider current conditions at the facility.  Oral argument had been held September 15, 2020 and since that date the plaintiffs had made the district court and subsequently the Ninth Circuit aware of an outbreak of COVID-19 at the facility impacting detained individuals and staff.  Plaintiffs alleged the Government knew about the outbreak at the time of the oral argument but did not disclose it to the court
  • Law 360 reported on a ruling by a federal judge in Maryland late last week that certified a class of medically vulnerable individuals held in ICE custody in the state but refused to grant expedited release hearings given that conditions at the centers had improved and there had been no new COVID cases at the centers in months.
  • Law 360 reported on a federal judge’s denial of a detained lawful permanent resident’s request to be released from ICE custody in South Florida so that she could receive care for COVID-19 outside of detention.  The 55-year old woman is a member of a class in a lawsuit covering individuals in ICE custody at three South Florida detention centers.

Effects of Southern Border Closure on Asylum Seekers: 

  • Commission member Mark Greenberg provided a declaration in support of the plaintiffs in the ACLU’s class action lawsuit challenging the legality of the CDC order as applied to unaccompanied minors. In the declaration, Mark Greenberg questions ORR’s contention, set forth in a declaration similar to one filed in Flores and attached to last week’s email, that argued that the ORR system would come under significant stress if it started to receive a certain number of referrals. The parties have briefed plaintiffs’ request for a preliminary injunction in that case, and are waiting for a decision.

September 18, 2020

Status of Immigration Courts and USCIS offices:

  • On Monday, EOIR announced that hearings in non-detained cases at courts without an announced opening date are postponed through October 2, 2020.  Current information on EOIR's operational status is available here.   
  • Documented reported that ICE filed more than 100,000 new cases in immigration courts nationwide during the first two and a half months of the COVID-19 shutdown, while case completion rates have plummeted.  TRAC reported that the current active case backlog increased 11% from the beginning of March to the end of August, and that average case wait times have climbed 12% during that time. 
  • TRAC also reported that 832 MPP cases were initiated in August of 2020.  Of those 546 were Cuban nationals, and 211 were from Ecuador.  The number of MPP cases initiated in August was more than double the number initiated in July.
  • Law360 reports that the Government Accountability Office has initiated an investigation into EOIR’s handling of the COVID-19 pandemic.

Detention Issues:

  •  There are currently 5,878 individuals who are or were in ICE custody and who have tested positive for COVID-19 since testing began in February 2020; 572 individuals were in custody and in isolation or monitoring as of September 17, 2020.  ICE had tested 35,023 individuals in its custody for COVID-19 as of September 11, 2020.  Virginia’s two senators, as well as Senator Patty Murray sent a letter to the DHS Inspector General asking that he investigate the transfer of individuals from ICE custody in Florida and Arizona to the Farmville detention facility in Virginia, which led to more than 300 COVID-19 cases at the facility.
  • According to ICE statistics, there were 20,138 individuals in detention as of September 11, 2020.  ICE published an updated spreadsheet with detention-related statistics that are current through September 12, 2020.  That spreadsheet is attached.
  • Freedom for Immigrants continues to update its Detention Map that tracks reported COVID-19 cases at detention facilities around the country, as well as reported quarantines, inadequate sanitary conditions and other information.  
  • The Rapid Defense Network is tracking litigation around the country seeking the release of individuals who remain in ICE custody here.   
  • The Bronx Defenders, along with others, have launched a database that summarizes decisions in COVID-19 related cases for individuals in detention, and flags certain features of the decisions, including legal claims, defenses, pre-existing health conditions, whether there was a COVID-19 diagnosis, any past criminal convictions, conditions of release, and outcome.   
  • Last Friday, the government filed a motion to stay pending appeal of the September 4, 2020 order in the Flores case requiring DHS to cease holding minors in hotels before expelling them.  On Wednesday, the Ninth Circuit denied the request for a stay, saying that the government could have applied for a stay with the district court in the first instance and noting the government’s introduction of evidence not presented to the district court, in the form of declarations from DHS and ORR officials attesting to the practical effects and public health consequences of the district court’s order.  The Ninth Circuit said that the government could renew its request for a stay after filing a request with the district court, and stayed the effective date of the district court’s earlier order until September 23 to allow the district court to consider any stay request filed by the government.  The government subsequently filed an ex parte stay application with the district court last night.
  • Earlier this week, the New York Times covered an increased level of ICE enforcement in the interior of the country.
  • Immigration news this week largely has focused on a formal complaint filed by Project South and other advocacy organizations with the DHS OIG, DHS CRCL, ICE regional leadership, and the local warden on behalf of immigrants detained at the Irwin County Detention Center in Ocilla, Georgia, and a nurse employed at the Detention Center.  The complaint contains shocking allegations about the number of hysterectomies performed on women detained at Irwin, medical neglect pre-dating COVID-19 and during the epidemic, and disregard for public health guidelines during the pandemic.
  • Members of Congress have written a letter to the Inspector General for DHS asking that his office open an investigation into Ms. Wooten’s allegations.
  • The New York Times covered the allegations in and reactions to the report.
  • Yesterday, Ms. Wooten’s counsel at Project South and the Government Accountability Project sent a letter to Congressional committee chairpersons and ranking members asking for an investigation into Ms. Wooten’s whistleblower disclosures.
  • An AP News article from today reports on a review of medical records for four women and interviews with lawyers, leading to growing concerns that the doctor at the center of Ms. Wooten’s allegations performed surgeries and other procedures on detained immigrants that they never sought or didn’t fully understand.  But the review did not reveal evidence of large numbers of hysterectomies.  The article includes a statement from the Acting ICE Director about the allegations.

Effects of Southern Border Closure on Asylum Seekers: 

  •  DHS has announced that restrictions on non-essential travel at U.S. ports of entry with Mexico and Canada will be extended through October 21, 2020.  This measure is distinct from the CDC order, which applies to all individuals traveling from Canada or Mexico who would otherwise be introduced into a congregate setting in any land or coastal POE or Border Patrol station at or near the border with Canada and Mexico, and remains in effect indefinitely.
  • In declarations of DHS and HHS officials filed in support of the government’s Ninth Circuit stay request in Flores, the government revealed that, between March 20 and September 9, 2020, CBP expelled more than 159,000 individuals along the Southwest border pursuant to Tile 42.  Of those individuals, approximately 8,800 were single minors and approximately 7,000 were members of family units or groups.  The government also stated that, while CBP immediately expelled nearly 7,000 of those family groups or units and more than 6,500 of those single minors to Mexico, CBP transferred more than 600 family units/groups and 2,200 single minors to ICE custody, where many were subsequently held in hotels.  According to the declaration of an ORR official, there were 1,097 UAC in care as of September 8, 2020, with 515 of those UAC in shelters (as opposed to long-term or transitional foster care).  ORR received 423 referrals in August of 2020.  The declaration also stated that there have been 204 confirmed COVID-19 cases among UAC in the ORR system, including 65 current active cases.  The active cases are mostly in Texas, after ORR received over 100 referrals of UAC in a two-week period who had been infected with or exposed to COVID-19.  The CBP, ICE, and ORR declarations are attached.  They contain more information about the agencies’ efforts to manage COVID-19 and why they allege the ability to use hotels is important to those efforts. 
  • In last night’s stay application before the district court in Flores the government filed a couple of new declarations which revealed that DHS is not currently placing minors in hotels and has excepted more minors from the CDC order since the district court’s September 4 ruling.  The new ORR declaration states that ORR received 568 referrals from September 1-16, 2020.  2 of these children were COVID-positive and 170 children had been exposed to COVID-19.  There also have been 46 COVID-19 positive cases since September 11, 2020 of UAC already in care. 
  • CBS News covered the revelations in the government’s Ninth Circuit filing.

September 11, 2020

Status of Immigration Courts and USCIS offices:

  • Last week, EOIR announced that hearings in non-detained cases at courts without an announced opening date are postponed through September 25, 2020.  Current information on EOIR's operational status is available here.   
  • The Kansas Reflector reports on USCIS’ plan to lay off 800 private contractors who work at the National Benefits Center in the Kansas City area, which would have negative effects on the local economy and cause delays in the processing of green cards, employment authorization documents, and other immigration documents.

Detention Issues:

  •  There are currently 5,686 individuals who are or were in ICE custody and who have tested positive for COVID-19 since testing began in February 2020; 616 individuals were in custody and in isolation or monitoring as of September 10, 2020.  ICE had tested 32,539 individuals in its custody for COVID-19 as of September 4, 2020.  La Palma Correctional Facility has had the greatest number of confirmed COVID-19 cases, 366 cases.
  • AP News discusses an expert report filed in litigation seeking the release of individuals detained by ICE in Farmville, Virginia, which found flaws in the detention center’s screening procedures and medical care, and recommended that individuals at high-risk for COVID-19 be released.  The judge in the case had ordered the inspection as part of the lawsuit. That facility has had 339 confirmed COVID cases.  Earlier today, the Washington Post reported that the real reason that ICE transferred individuals from other detention centers to Farmville, which ended up causing the large COVID-19 outbreak there, was to “facilitate the rapid deployment of Homeland Security tactical teams to quell protests in Washington, circumventing restrictions on the use of charter flights for employee travel.”
  • According to ICE statistics, there were 20,302 individuals in detention as of September 4, 2020, a decline of a few hundred from the prior week.
  • Freedom for Immigrants continues to update its Detention Map that tracks reported COVID-19 cases at detention facilities around the country, as well as reported quarantines, inadequate sanitary conditions and other information. 
  • The Rapid Defense Network is tracking litigation around the country seeking the release of individuals who remain in ICE custody here.  
  • The Bronx Defenders, along with others, have launched a database that summarizes decisions in COVID-19 related cases for individuals in detention, and flags certain features of the decisions, including legal claims, defenses, pre-existing health conditions, whether there was a COVID-19 diagnosis, any past criminal convictions, conditions of release, and outcome.   
  • The government appealed the judge’s order in Flores requiring that DHS stop placing minors in hotels before expelling them.
  • PRI and KQED report on hunger strikes initiated by individuals detained by ICE across many states, in an effort to draw attention to detention conditions during the COVID epidemic. They focus on a recent hunger strike at Yuba County Jail north of San Francisco.
  • Reveal from the Center for Investigative Reporting reviewed internal emails between New Mexico state health officials and ICE as state officials offered to assist ICE in avoiding large COVID-19 outbreaks at local detention centers.  The email correspondence and interviews with state officials show that ICE did not follow through with testing or transfer recommendations from state officials or communicate adequately with state officials regarding what they were doing to contain COVID-19 outbreaks in detention.

Effects of Southern Border Closure on Asylum Seekers: 

  •  The DHS Office of Inspector General published a report this week based on surveys sent to CBP facilities between April 22 and May 1, 2020 asking a series of questions about their experiences managing COVID-19.  The survey responses generally showed that facilities had sufficient supplies to mitigate the spread of COVID-19 but many reported concerns about an inability to practice social distancing and limited space to quarantine or isolate detained individuals.
  • An article for the Intercept covers a reporter’s journey along the Southern border to see how the Administration’s immigration policies have impacted border communities, especially during the pandemic.  Among other things, the article profiles a woman who fled El Salvador in 1980, almost died in the Arizona desert before being rescued, and now is an advocate for migrants in the area.
  • NBC News told the story of an asylum seeker from Cuba who is waiting in Reynosa Mexico with his family to see if he will be granted humanitarian parole to receive treatment for cancer in the United States.  The gentleman tried to seek asylum in the United States over the summer but was told to return to Honduras or Guatemala and seek asylum there.
  • Reuters told the horrifying story of a 12-year old disabled boy who was expelled back to Guatemala despite having a grandfather in the United States waiting to receive him and advocates pushing for his transfer to an ORR shelter.  His family, including his mother who was still waiting for MPP proceedings in Juarez, had no idea where the boy was for several days until his mother saw an announcement on social media that the Guatemalan government was looking for her son’s parents.
  • The Dallas Morning News covers the daily anxiety consuming the 650-1,000 migrants who remain at the tent camp in Matamoros, Mexico, due to stalled immigration cases, the pandemic, Hurricane Hanna and resulting flooding, and vulnerability to growing crime from cartels.

September 4, 2020

Status of Immigration Courts and USCIS offices:

  • Earlier today, EOIR announced that hearings in non-detained cases at courts without an announced opening date are postponed through September 25, 2020.  Current information on EOIR's operational status is available here.   
  • Law 360 covered a lawsuit filed by AILA’s New Jersey chapter seeking to end in-person hearings at the Newark Immigration Court during the pandemic.
  • Boundless analyzed data reported by the Washington Post and concluded that nearly 300,000 naturalization applicants likely will not become citizens in time to vote in November’s election.  The Washington Post also interviewed a number of naturalization applicants who had hoped to become U.S. citizens in time to vote in the November elections and expressed disappointment about delays that may make this impossible.

Detention Issues:

  • There are currently 5,469 individuals who are or were in ICE custody and who have tested positive for COVID-19 since testing began in February 2020; 468 individuals were in custody and in isolation or monitoring as of September 3, 2020.  Infections continue to grow, and six detention facilities have had more than 300 confirmed cases.  ICE had tested 28,888 individuals in its custody for COVID-19 as of August 28, 2020. 
  • This week ICE confirmed another death from COVID-19 in its custody.  Buzzfeed reported that the 50-year old Honduran national had been detained at the Joe Corley Processing Center in Conroe, Texas.  This gentleman’s tragic death is the 19th death in ICE custody this fiscal year, and the 6th individual who has died after testing positive for COVID-19 in ICE custody. 
  • According to ICE statistics, there were 20,713 individuals in detention as of August 28, 2020.  ICE has provided an updated spreadsheet with detention data current as of August 29, 2020.  Among other things, the data shows that there have been more book-ins in August than there were in July, and that the time period from service of a USCIS fear decision to release has declined slightly.
  • CBS News reports on an ICE announcement earlier this week that it had arrested more than 2,000 individuals during a six-week nationwide operation in July and August.  While many of those arrested had criminal records or pending charges, some individuals were arrested simply for lacking proper documentation.
  • Freedom for Immigrants continues to update its Detention Map that tracks reported COVID-19 cases at detention facilities around the country, as well as reported quarantines, inadequate sanitary conditions and other information.  
  • The Rapid Defense Network is tracking litigation around the country seeking the release of individuals who remain in ICE custody here.   
  • The Bronx Defenders, along with others, have launched a database that summarizes decisions in COVID-19 related cases for individuals in detention, and flags certain features of the decisions, including legal claims, defenses, pre-existing health conditions, whether there was a COVID-19 diagnosis, any past criminal convictions, conditions of release, and outcome.   
  • Amnesty International has published an update to its April report on ICE’s handling of COVID-19 in its detention facilities. 
  • Last week, the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Third Circuit reversed two orders by a district court in Pennsylvania that had ordered the release of a group of immigrants from ICE custody at two detention centers, finding that the district judge had committed procedural and substantive errors.  The case was remanded to the district court but the district court has yet to take any action in the case.
  • Yesterday, there was a telephonic status conference in the Flores case and the district judge later entered an order finding that all minors detained in the legal custody of DHS or ORR under Title 42/the CDC order are class members; that DHS must cease placing minors in hotels for Title 42 purposes by September 15, 2020; that DHS shall transfer minors in hotels to licensed facilities as soon as possible; and that plaintiffs’ counsel shall be given access to any facility where minors are held.  The court stayed implementation of the order until September 8, 2020, after the government was reported to say at the hearing that it would need some time to begin complying with the order.  It is unclear how Judge Gee’s order will be affected by the advance publication of a final rule by the CDC, which came within hours of Judge Gee’s ruling and is addressed later in this email.
  • Mother Jones and New Orleans Public Radio covered reports of lack of water, power, and proper sanitation in ICE detention facilities in Louisiana after Hurricane Laura.
  • The Marshall Project has produced a documentary in cooperation with Frontline about an undocumented mother’s struggle to survive the COVID-19 pandemic while her husband is detained by ICE.

 Effects of Southern Border Closure on Asylum Seekers: 

  • At the end of the day yesterday, the CDC released an advance copy of a final rule that amends existing foreign quarantine regulations administered by the CDC.  It currently is scheduled to go into effect on October 11, 2020.  This final rule provides a procedure for the CDC Director to enter an order prohibiting the introduction of persons from such foreign countries or places as the Director designates to avert the danger of the introduction of a quarantinable communicable disease into the United States.  This final rule is not the same thing as the CDC order, which was issued pursuant to the authority contained in the interim final rule published on March 24, 2020.  In other words, the interim final rule is what authorized the CDC Director to issue the type of order that currently is being used to expel migrants, and the final rule makes minor changes to and “finalizes” the interim final rule.  In the final rule, the CDC also responds to comments from the public that the interim final rule, and the CDC order implemented pursuant to that authority, violate the TVPRA, the asylum and withholding statutes, and the statute implementing the Convention Against Torture (see pages 95-103 of the advance copy).
  • According to CBP statistics, the agency conducted almost 44,000 expulsions from the Southern border in August, for an increase of more than 7,000 over July numbers.  During the same month, CBP only processed approximately 5,800 encounters at the Southern border pursuant to its immigration authority under Title 8.  CBP has conducted nearly 155,000 expulsions since the CDC order went into effect in March.  CBP encountered 3,088 UAC during the month of August, an increase of more than 500 from July.  The number of single adults encountered by CBP in August also rose, to nearly 44,000. 
  • The Wall Street Journal reports that the U.S. government has begun transferring more unaccompanied children to ORR care, rather than expelling them.  An unnamed official also said that nearly 100 children had been transferred to ORR care from the Rio Grande Valley in the past week after being exposed to COVID-19, and that recent transfers have led to more cases of COVID-19 at shelters across the country.
  • CNN published an article on the use of hotels to house minors before they are expelled, in the wake of the Independent Monitor report filed last month in the Flores litigation. 
  • After the publication of an article in the Washington Post about Nicaraguan political dissidents who were expelled to their home country, which was featured in last week’s email, members of Congress sent a letter to President Trump calling on his Administration to consider the asylum claims of individuals from Nicaragua on the merits, rather than expelling them, and to cease deportations to Nicaragua.  

August 28, 2020

Status of Immigration Courts and USCIS offices:

  • Last Monday, EOIR announced that hearings in non-detained cases at courts without an announced opening date are postponed through September 11, 2020.  Current information on EOIR's operational status is available here.  
  • Last week, USCIS announced that it would cancel plans to furlough more than 10,000 employees on August 30, due to recent increases in revenues and cost cutting measures taken by the agency.  Deputy Director Joseph Edlow emphasized, however, that without action from Congress during fiscal year 2021, USCIS would be forced to make additional spending cuts that would impact services, such as processing times.  CBS News and Buzzfeed covered the developments. 

Detention Issues:

  • There are currently 5,300 individuals who are or were in ICE custody and who have tested positive for COVID-19 since testing began in February 2020; 850 individuals were in custody and in isolation or monitoring as of August 27, 2020.  More centers continue to report the first COVID-19 infections among the detained population, and the number of individuals impacted continues to rise.  ICE had tested 26,490 individuals in its custody for COVID-19 as of August 21, 2020.  La Palma Correctional Facility in Arizona now has the largest COVID-19 outbreak, with more than 350 cases.  There also have been 300 total confirmed cases at the Stewart Detention Center in Georgia. 
  • According to ICE statistics, there were 21,066 individuals in detention as of August 21, 2020, a small increase from the prior week.   
  • Freedom for Immigrants continues to update its Detention Map that tracks reported COVID-19 cases at detention facilities around the country, as well as reported quarantines, inadequate sanitary conditions and other information.  
  • The Rapid Defense Network is tracking litigation around the country seeking the release of individuals who remain in ICE custody here.   
  • The Bronx Defenders, along with others, have launched a database that summarizes decisions in COVID-19 related cases for individuals in detention, and flags certain features of the decisions, including legal claims, defenses, pre-existing health conditions, whether there was a COVID-19 diagnosis, any past criminal convictions, conditions of release, and outcome.   
  • Last week, the Independent Monitor in the Flores case filed a report on the use of hotels to hold unaccompanied children and families before they are expelled under Title 42.  The report revealed that the use of hotels has been more widespread than previously understood.  More than 500 unaccompanied minors have been held in more than 25 different hotels before being expelled.  Also last week, in support of their brief arguing that minors held in hotels are not covered by the Flores settlement agreement, the government filed a declaration by the Chief of the Juvenile and Family Residential Management Unit (JFRMU) within ICE, which addresses issues confronting unaccompanied minors and family units in the custody of ICE Enforcement and Removal Operations.  It provides more information regarding ICE's use of hotels to hold migrants awaiting deportation or expulsion.   
  • As the Miami Herald reported, the L.A. Sheriff's Office stopped transferring inmates to ICE custody during the COVID pandemic, and will now make this change permanent. The sheriff noted reports of substandard conditions at local ICE facilities and said it would stop transferring inmates to ICE custody based solely on a civil immigration detainer. 

Effects of Southern Border Closure on Asylum Seekers: 

  • The parties in the putative class action challenging the CDC rule as it is applied to unaccompanied minors filed a joint status report in the case on Thursday, recommending a briefing schedule on the plaintiffs' motion for a preliminary injunction.  In the status report, the defendants stated that the CDC expects to issue a final rule and an amended order soon.  The parties did not elaborate about any details regarding the new rule. 
  • The Washington Post examines the real-world consequences of the CDC order through the eyes of Nicaraguan political activists who tried to seek protection in the U.S. in July and were instead expelled and flown back to danger. 
  • The Strauss Center published its Metering Update for August 2020, which discusses how the CDC order has impacted metering lists, asylum seekers, and shelters along the U.S.-Mexico border. 
  • As AP News reported, a group of Evangelical leaders sent a letter to Ivanka Trump asking her to end the Administration's policy of expelling migrant children during the pandemic.  The leaders noted Ms. Trump's concern with the issue of human trafficking and urged her to use her influence within the Administration to restore the application of the TVPRA to all unaccompanied children. 
  • Slate published an interview with Buzzfeed reporter Adolfo Flores about how the U.S. is expelling asylum seekers during the pandemic. 
  • Slate also published a piece on Global Response Management's efforts to contain the spread of COVID-19 in the tent camp in Matamoros, and the other challenges faced by camp residents, including indefinite postponing of immigration court hearings and flooding caused by Hurricane Hanna. 
  • UNHCR has started assisting the Mexican government by providing services and support to migrant communities in Northern Mexican border towns.  Among other things, UNHCR is providing hygiene kits, as well as information to asylum seekers on their legal rights.

August 21, 2020

Status of Immigration Courts and USCIS offices:

  • On Monday, EOIR announced that hearings in non-detained cases at courts without an announced opening date are postponed through September 4, 2020.  Current information on EOIR's operational status is available here.  
  • Law360 has an article on the resumption of non-detained individual hearings at some immigration courts, the inconsistent usage of masks during court proceedings, and the tension attorneys feel between protecting everyone's safety, and ensuring that mask use by clients does not negatively impact the immigration judge's ability to fairly assess their clients' claims.
  • Earlier this week, Senator Leahy sent a letter to the Acting Secretary of DHS and CIS' Deputy Director for Policy urging them to further postpone a planned furlough of more than 13,000 USCIS staff, scheduled for August 30, 2020, given that the agency is projected to end the fiscal year with a carryover balance.  Forbes has an interview with Doug Rand, discussing the impact that the furloughs would have on the processing of immigration applications.

Detention Issues:

  • There are currently 4,743 individuals who are or were in ICE custody and who have tested positive for COVID-19 since testing began in February 2020; 795 individuals were in custody and in isolation or monitoring as of August 20, 2020.  More centers continue to report the first COVID-19 infections among the detained population, and the number of individuals impacted continues to rise.  ICE had tested 23,964 individuals in its custody for COVID-19 as of August 14, 2020.  The largest outbreak is at Immigration Centers of America-Farmville Detention Center in Virginia, where infections continue to rise and a federal judge recently ordered ICE to stop transferring individuals into the facility.
  • ICE also updated its online guidance on COVID-19 with information on its testing practices: "Effective June 4, 2020, ICE tests all new detainees who arrive at ICE-owned facilities for COVID-19 during the intake screening process. ICE houses all new arrivals separately (cohorted) from the general population for 14 days after their arrival, and monitors them for symptoms. IHSC isolates detainees with COVID-19 symptoms and observes them for a specified period, in accordance with CDC guidance. New arrivals who have negative test results and remain symptom free can join the general detained population after the 14-day intake period. Detainees who test positive for COVID-19 receive appropriate medical care to manage the disease."
  • According to ICE statistics, there are 21,007 individuals in detention.  This number includes 3,102 individuals who had established a claim for persecution or torture.  There have been 3,986 book-ins so far in August.  This information is now included on a spreadsheet provided on ICE's website that contains additional information, including the average time from a USCIS fear decision service date to ICE release (139.8 days for adult detention centers and 11.7 days for family residential centers); number of removals and releases by facility type; final releases by release reason (bond, order of recognizance, order of supervision, parole, or prosecutorial discretion); average daily population and length of stay; as well as information for each facility (including average length of stay, detainee classification level, ICE threat level, average daily population subject to mandatory detention, and inspection information). 
  • Freedom for Immigrants released its monthly report on COVID-19 in immigration detention, covering information collected from July 17 through August 13, 2020.  FFI also continues to update its Detention Map that tracks reported COVID-19 cases at detention facilities around the country, as well as reported quarantines, inadequate sanitary conditions and other information. 
  • The Rapid Defense Network is tracking litigation around the country seeking the release of individuals who remain in ICE custody here.  
  • The Bronx Defenders, along with others, have launched a database that summarizes decisions in COVID-19 related cases for individuals in detention, and flags certain features of the decisions, including legal claims, defenses, pre-existing health conditions, whether there was a COVID-19 diagnosis, any past criminal convictions, conditions of release, and outcome.  
  • The Center for Migration Studies of New York published a report documenting ICE's response to COVID-19 in detention, focusing on private contractors who run many of the facilities.
  • Frontline reported on ICE's under-counting of COVID-19 victims who were detained, given that it does not include individuals who were released from custody or removed before they died.

Effects of Southern Border Closure on Asylum Seekers: 

  • DHS updated its Fact Sheet on measures at the border to limit the further spread of COVID-19, which included an announcement that restrictions on non-essential travel at U.S. ports of entry with Mexico and Canada will be extended through September 21, 2020.  This measure is distinct from the CDC order, which applies to all individuals traveling from Canada or Mexico who would otherwise be introduced into a congregate setting in any land or coastal POE or Border Patrol station at or near the border with Canada and Mexico, and remains in effect indefinitely.
  • Last week, the ACLU, Oxfam America, and the Texas Civil Rights Project filed a class action complaint in federal district court in Washington, DC challenging DHS' practice of expelling unaccompanied minors pursuant to the CDC order.  Prior cases filed by the ACLU and other groups on this issue were filed on behalf of individual children, and were mooted after the government agreed to transfer the plaintiffs to ORR custody. In this case the plaintiff seeks to represent a class comprised of all unaccompanied non-citizen children who are or will be detained in government custody in the U.S. and are or will be subjected to the CDC order/Title 42 process.  The named plaintiff is a 16-year old boy from Guatemala whose father lives in the U.S. and has a pending immigration case.  Yesterday, the plaintiffs filed a motion for a preliminary injunction in the case.  The motion noted that the government has agreed not to expel the named plaintiff, but argues that the court can still issue class-wide relief.  CBS News covered the filing of the lawsuit, and also reported that only 168 children had been transferred to ORR custody in July.  While this number is higher than the numbers in April, May, and June, it is still well below more typical levels.
  • Pro Publica, NPR, the New York Times, and BuzzFeed all had stories in the past couple of weeks about the administration's policy of expelling children.  ProPublica reveals that ICE is testing migrant children for COVID-19 before expelling them, and only expelling those children who test negative for the virus.  This is due to agreements the U.S. has with 10 countries for returning UAC under the CDC order, but undermines the key rationale for the policy.  Reporting from the New York Times shows the extent to which major hotel chains have been used to house almost 900 individuals, likely minors and families, set to be expelled under the CDC order.  The article also discusses the role of a private security company, MVM, Inc., in guarding migrants staying at hotels.  NPR reported on two teenage cousins from Honduras who were set to be expelled under the CDC order, before the younger child's father, who lives in Texas and is seeking asylum, was able to reach Kids in Need of Defense.  Immigration authorities agreed to transfer the cousins to an ORR shelter, and they are now living with the younger child's father.  Buzzfeed reported on a 17-year old teenage girl from Guatemala who was expelled, along with her 1-year old child, back to her home country where she has no family.  
  • Based on conversations with two DHS officials, the Washington Post reported on internal data showing that the recent increase in encounters along the Southwest border is partly driven by more migrants attempting to enter the U.S. multiple times, since enforcement under the CDC order results in expulsion, rather than detention or federal prosecution for illegal entry/re-entry.

August 7, 2020

Status of Immigration Courts and USCIS offices:

  • On Monday, EOIR announced that hearings in non-detained cases at courts without an announced opening date are postponed through August 21, 2020.  Current information on EOIR's operational status is available here.  
  • Law360  covered a temporary restraining order issued by a federal judge earlier this week ordering USCIS to print EAD cards for a class of individuals whose applications had been approved but who have not received their EAD cards.  Plaintiffs alleged that USCIS was delayed in printing EAD cards because it had cancelled a printing contract with a third-party company and was planning to hire federal employees to handle the printing, but was unable to follow through with the hiring due to USCIS' current budget situation.

Detention Issues:

  • There are currently 4,250 individuals who are or were in ICE custody and who have tested positive for COVID-19 since testing began in February 2020; 911 individuals were in custody and in isolation or monitoring as of August 6, 2020.  More centers continue to report the first COVID-19 infections among the detained population.  ICE had tested 21,085 individuals in its custody for COVID-19 as of July 31, 2020.  
  • Tragically, there were two deaths in ICE custody this week.  The first was of a 51-year old gentleman from Taiwan who died at a hospital in South Florida.  The death appears unrelated to COVID-19.  The second death involved a Canadian gentleman in his 70s who passed away from COVID-19 while in the custody of ICE at the Farmville Detention Center in Virginia.  CAIR Coalition provided a statement on the devastating circumstances surrounding his death.  There have been 339 COVID-19 cases at the Farmville facility, and the outbreak likely started after transfers from other facilities of individuals who ended up being infected.
  • This week a district judge in the Northern District of California granted an additional request for a temporary restraining order for individuals detained at the Mesa Verde Detention Center, finding that "the plaintiffs demonstrated a strong likelihood of success on the merits of their claim that the defendants have violated the due process rights of the class members through deliberate indifference to the risk of an outbreak. Indeed, the documentary evidence shows that the defendants have avoided widespread testing of staff and detainees at the facility, not for lack of tests, but for fear that positive test results would require them to implement safety measures that they apparently felt were not worth the trouble."  The Court also said that:  "The defendants, having responded to the health crisis in such a cavalier fashion (even in the face of litigation and a string of court orders), have lost the credibility to complain that the relief requested by the plaintiffs is too rigid or burdensome. The defendants have also lost the right to be trusted that they will accomplish on their own what the plaintiffs contend requires a court order to ensure."  The Court ordered weekly rapid-response tests for all individuals in detention at Mesa Verde, among other measures, pending a preliminary injunction hearing.  The plaintiffs' request attached emails between GEO and ICE obtained in discovery demonstrating a hesitancy to do widespread testing because the detention center would not be able to safely accommodate a large number of COVID-positive individuals.
  • According to ICE statistics, there were 21,546 individuals in detention as of August 1, 2020, a small decline from the prior week.  This number includes 3,229 individuals who had established a claim for persecution or torture.  There were 5,824 book-ins in July, making the rate of book-ins more than 700 higher in July than they were in June.
  • Freedom for Immigrants continues to update its Detention Map that tracks reported COVID-19 cases at detention facilities around the country, as well as reported quarantines, inadequate sanitary conditions and other information. 
  • The Rapid Defense Network is tracking litigation around the country seeking the release of individuals who remain in ICE custody here.  
  • The Bronx Defenders, along with others, have launched a database that summarizes decisions in COVID-19 related cases for individuals in detention, and flags certain features of the decisions, including legal claims, defenses, pre-existing health conditions, whether there was a COVID-19 diagnosis, any past criminal convictions, conditions of release, and outcome.  
  • There were various filings in the Flores case this week in anticipation of a telephonic status conference held yesterday.  Plaintiffs' counsel filed a declaration explaining the status of negotiations with the government about a process for informing parents of their rights under the settlement; Defendants filed a response to a status report submitted by Plaintiffs that lays out the government's preliminary position that minors held in hotels before being expelled are not covered by the settlement agreement; the parties filed a joint status report in which the government said that, if discussions regarding a plan for informing parents of their rights under the settlement agreement, including the option to have their child(ren) released to a sponsor, are not required by court order the Defendants do not want to continue to engage in such discussions because the parties are unlikely to reach agreement and the government does not want to be involved in a process that would result in the separation of families; and RAICES, Proyecto Dilley, and Aldea - the People's Justice Center were given permission to file an amicus brief, which includes declarations alleging that ICE is not complying with the settlement agreement in terms of individualized consideration of families for release from custody, or with court orders regarding safety measures during the pandemic. The Court entered an order after the status conference which, among other things ordered briefing regarding a proposed remedy for defendants' ongoing violations of the settlement agreement, given defendants' view that the parties will not be able to reach agreement on a know-your-rights protocol for parents, and ordered briefing of a motion to enforce the settlement agreement with respect to minors held in hotels before expulsion (which must included detailed data on the number and ages of minors affected, and where they are housed).  The court will consider the briefing and other matters at the next status conference, scheduled for September 4, 2020. 
  • Buzzfeed  examined internal government reports that confirmed a substantial increase in use of force in immigration detention during COVID-19.

Effects of Southern Border Closure on Asylum Seekers: 

  • According to CBP statistics, the agency conducted more than 36,500 expulsions from the Southern border in July, up from approximately 29,000 in June.  During the same month, CBP only processed approximately 4,950 encounters pursuant to its immigration authority under Title 8.  CBP has conducted more than 110,000 expulsions since the CDC order went into effect in   March.  CBP encountered 2,506 UAC during the month of July, compared to fewer than 1,700 in June.  It is likely that a high majority of them were or will be expelled to their home countries.  The number of single adults encountered by CBP in July also rose, to more than 36,000. 
  • CBP also released detailed monthly data for January-June 2020 for a number of areas where public information was not previously provided.  For example, CBP released new data about MPP showing enrollments in MPP by Southwest border sector for the first six months of 2020.  The data shows that CBP has continued to place some individuals in MPP since the CDC order went into effect. CBP also provided data on the outcomes of MPP cases through July 17, 2020.  MPP case outcomes provided are: 32,574 removals, 28,040 in absentia removals, 523 cases granted relief, 10,629 cases terminated, 1 case granted voluntary departure, 48 withdrawn applications for admission, and 45 marked as "other" (for a total of 71,860 cases).  Finally, CBP provided information regarding individuals apprehended entering without inspection after being placed in MPP, separated by month and by single adult/UAC/family unit.  For example, the data shows that 84 MPP UAC were apprehended entering EWI in the first six months of 2020.
  • CBP also released a number of custody and transfer statistics for the first six months of 2020. This information includes information on individuals placed in different programs by the Office of Field Operations (OFO) (i.e. MPP, asylum cooperative agreements, PACR/HARP ) in each month, information on different transfer destinations from OFO custody (i.e. parole, ICE custody, CBP custody), information on numbers of individuals with different Border Patrol processing dispositions (expedited removal, PACR/HARP/ACA, NTA/ROR, reinstatement, voluntary return, NTA-detained, and MPP), and a breakdown of Border Patrol transfer destinations (humanitarian release, federal custody, repatriation, state/local custody, transferred to port-of-entry for MPP or non-MPP processing) from January-June 2020.  CBP also provided information on the average number of individuals in custody per sector in June 2020.
  • According to CIS, it received 296 credible fear cases from July 15-31, 2020. There were 217 reasonable fear case receipts during the same time period.  For the first time, CIS also released data that shows those credible fear cases that were subject to the third-country transit bar for each two week period since July 15, 2019, and how many decisions determined that fear had been established and how many decisions determined fear had not been established.  The report also contains information on the number of cases that demonstrated an exception to the bar during each two-week period since July 15, 2019.
  • Pro Publica and AP News published stories this week about unaccompanied minors expelled under the CDC order.  On Thursday a group of Senators sent a letter to the Acting Commissioner of CBP asking him to clarify testimony provided before a Senate Committee last month claiming that CBP screens all unaccompanied minors encountered near the border for human trafficking and other protection concerns, even if they are expelled under the CDC order.  The letter also urges CBP to comply with the TVPRA when it encounters unaccompanied children, rather than summarily expelling them.
  • Reuters reported on shelters in Guatemala that are seeing an increasing number of children returned from the U.S. to Guatemala alone.  Many of them cannot return to their homes because they are in danger, but shelters' capacities are stretched.  According to Guatemalan government figures, from April through July of 2020, 379 Guatemalan unaccompanied minors were returned from the United States, with 176 returned in July alone. 
  • NPR had a story on how the Trump Administration is using COVID-19 to expel migrants, including children.
  • This week the Hope Border Institute published a report on the impact of COVID-19 on the El Paso-Juarez community, including for migrants seeking to enter the United States.

 

July 31, 2020

Status of Immigration Courts and USCIS offices:

  • On Monday, EOIR announced that hearings in non-detained cases at courts without an announced opening date are postponed through August 14, 2020. Current information on EOIR's operational status is available here.
  • On Wednesday, the House Judiciary Committee Subcommittee on Immigration and Citizenship held a USCIS oversight hearing. In addition to hearing from Joseph Edlow from USCIS, a witness from AILA, the president of the union representing USCIS employees in the DC metro area, and two other non-government witnesses testified. The recording and witness statements are available here. Government Executive covered the hearing and USCIS' financial situation.
  • The Migration Policy Institute looks at the impact that USCIS furloughs would have on U.S. immigration levels. MPI estimates that for each month the furlough would last, 75,000 applications for various immigration benefits would not be processed.

Detention Issues:

  • There are currently 3,936 individuals who are or were in ICE custody and who have tested positive for COVID-19 since testing began in February 2020; 944 individuals were in custody and in isolation or monitoring as of July 29, 2020. There are now 129 cases at PIDC, and more centers continue to report the first COVID-19 infections among the detained population. ICE had tested 19,092 individuals in its custody for COVID-19 as of July 24, 2020.
  • According to ICE statistics, there were 21,884 individuals in detention as of July 25, 2020, a small decline from the prior week. This number includes 3,306 individuals who had established a claim for persecution or torture. There were 4,407 book-ins in July as of July 25, 2020, making the rate of book-ins slightly higher for July than they were in June.
  • Freedom for Immigrants continues to update its Detention Map that tracks reported COVID-19 cases at detention facilities around the country, as well as reported quarantines, inadequate sanitary conditions and other information.
  • The Rapid Defense Network is tracking litigation around the country seeking the release of individuals who remain in ICE custody here.
  • The Bronx Defenders, along with others, have launched a database that summarizes decisions in COVID-19 related cases for individuals in detention, and flags certain features of the decisions, including legal claims, defenses, pre-existing health conditions, whether there was a COVID-19 diagnosis, any past criminal convictions, conditions of release, and outcome.
  • There were a number of developments in Flores and related litigation again this week. Last weekend, Judge Gee issued an order denying the defendants' motion to stay the July 27 release deadline. Judge Gee said there was no need for a stay given that her earlier June 26 order would become unenforceable on its own terms if none of the events it was predicated on had occurred (ICE agreeing to release children held longer than 20 days with their parents, a court ordering the release of parents held in FRCs, or parents voluntarily consenting to the release of their children) by July 27. Judge Gee also urged the parties to stop saying that the court's order could lead to family separation, given the injunction in the Ms L litigation preventing the detention of children apart from their parents absent parental consent or a finding that the parent is unfit or presents a danger to the child. Judge Gee also ordered the parties to file a status report by August 5 detailing the status of their negotiations regarding a know-your-rights protocol for informing parents in FRCs about their rights and options under the settlement agreement. There is a status conference scheduled for August 7, and, in the same order, Judge Gee requested that the parties be prepared to provide an update by that date on their negotiations regarding defendants' use of hotels to hold minors subject to expulsion under the CDC order. Defendants had objected to a special monitor report filed in the case that addressed this issue, but Judge Gee said it was an appropriate area of inquiry. Later in the week, Judge Gee denied a request to intervene filed on behalf of individuals detained at FRCs, finding that they had not shown that their interests are not adequately represented by class counsel. Also this week, plaintiffs in Flores filed a report detailing their failure to agree with defendants regarding their use of hotels to hold minors subject to expulsion. In the report plaintiffs set forth defendants' position that these children are not covered by the settlement agreement, and present argument as to why they should be considered class members. NBCNews covered this week's developments, and Time and CBSNews interviewed parents detained at FRCs regarding the uncertainty of their situation given COVID-19 and pending court proceedings. Law360 reported on a conference this week in the O.M.G. v. Wolf case, where Judge Boasberg ordered the parties to negotiate as to whether certain particularly vulnerable families should be released from FRCs on a case-by-case basis. Judge Boasberg said plaintiffs could come back if ICE refuses to release particularly vulnerable families and set another status conference for August 19.
  • An article in the Intercept features handwritten letters from individuals detained by ICE in Arizona. The letters, and the reporter's interviews with individuals detained there, detail the desperation and isolation felt by many who wrote about a lack of adequate food and sanitation, inability to social distance, and a refusal to release vulnerable individuals.
  • The Washington Post covers a letter sent by Virginia Governor Ralph Northam and the state's two US Senators asking the CDC to investigate the large COVID-19 outbreak at Farmville Detention Center and ensure that widespread testing is taking place as represented by the company that runs the facility.
  • Quartz Africa looks into the deportations of Africans during the COVID-19 pandemic.

Effects of Southern Border Closure on Asylum Seekers:

  • Over the weekend, the ACLU filed a lawsuit on behalf of the Texas Civil Rights Project acting as next friend for a group of migrants who were being held at a hotel in McAllen, Texas before being expelled under the CDC order. On Monday, the government agreed to not to expel the migrants, and the plaintiffs withdrew their request for emergency relief. BuzzFeed and AP News covered the developments. Last Friday, members of Congress sent a letter to DHS expressing alarm about the use of hotels to hold asylum seekers. A special report on KRGV.com shows that it is not only individuals subject to expulsion who have been held in hotels. The report tells the story of a teenager from Guatemala who re-entered as an unaccompanied child after being ordered removed in absentia (along with her mother) in MPP proceedings. After the teen spent time in ORR custody while a motion to reopen was pending, the teenager's attorney tried to determine her client's whereabouts as the child was transferred between multiple different hotels before being removed.
  • Texas Public Radio is doing a four-part series on how the CDC order is affecting the lives of asylum-seeking migrants. You can access the series here.
  • PBS News Hour covers immigration restrictions implemented by the Trump administration during COVID-19 and associated criticisms from advocates, health professionals, and those who study the immigration system that the measures will not promote public safety or economic recovery.
  • Finally, earlier this week, in two separate rulings, a federal district judge in New York issued orders enjoining the Administration's public charge rules. In one order the court issued a nationwide injunction against the Department of State rule, revisions to the Foreign Affairs Manual, and a fall 2019 Proclamation addressing immigrants not covered by health insurance or who do not have the financial means to pay for health insurance. The Proclamation was already enjoined by a federal court in Oregon. In the second order, the judge enjoined the government from enforcing the DHS public charge rule during the duration of a declared national health emergency in response to the COVID-19 outbreak. The same judge had enjoined the DHS rule in the fall of 2019, but the Supreme Court subsequently stayed that injunction. Law360, BuzzFeed News, and CNN covered the rulings.

July 24, 2020

Status of Immigration Courts and USCIS offices

  •  Last Friday evening, EOIR and DHS released information regarding the criteria that would need to be met for MPP hearings to resume, and the safeguards that will be put in place to address safety concerns. The statement provided that:  "Once the criteria are met, the Departments will provide public notification at least fifteen calendar days prior to resumption of the hearings with location-specific details." Advocates continue to be concerned that these delays place migrants in severe danger and that, out of desperation, some migrants will continue to leave the border region, or Mexico, as a result.  An article from the San Antonio Express News notes that the population of the migrant camp in Matamoros has decreased to 1,000 people, as MPP hearings continue to be postponed.  On Monday, EOIR announced that hearings in non-detained cases at courts without an announced opening date are postponed through August 7, 2020.  Current information on EOIR's operational status is available here.  
  • On Wednesday evening, the National Association of Immigration Judges held a stakeholder town hall meeting via Zoom.  You can access a recording of the town hall here.  In addition to hearing from the NAIJ President, Judge Ashley Tabbador, and other immigration judges, NAIJ invited members of the ICE attorneys' union, a member of the private bar, and a spokesperson from the non-profit community, to participate.  All of the speakers emphasized the lack of information and transparency about the re-opening of courts and requested better communication at the local level.  Among other things highlighted by Judge Tabbador, she stated that NAIJ is not being told what information is being used to making local re-opening determinations, that the re-opening plans for each court are not being provided to NAIJ in advance of the court re-opening, that NAIJ does not have any advance notice when a particular court has to close, that EOIR has refused to bargain with NAIJ regarding working conditions, and that some re-openings are not proceeding consistently with guidelines (for example, some courts are beginning master calendar hearings before they are supposed to under the guidelines that provide for phased re-openings).  
  • WBUR News reported on chaos for attorneys at the Boston Immigration Court since non-detained hearings resumed.
  • Earlier today, Senator Leahy announced that CIS had agreed to postpone any furloughs from August 3 to August 31, 2020.  This came amidst renewed scrutiny of the agency's claimed budget shortfalls, given projections showing the agency would end the fiscal year with a surplus.  Earlier this week Senators Leahy and Tester sent a letter to Acting Secretary Wolf and the Deputy Director for Policy at USCIS regarding this apparent discrepancy.  The House Judiciary Committee Subcommittee on Immigration and Citizenship will hold a CIS oversight hearing this coming Wednesday, July 29, at 10:00 am.
  • The Arizona Republic discusses a recent study suggesting that as many as 315,000 individuals may not be able to vote in the November elections because they were not able to become naturalized in time (mostly due to delays caused by the COVID-19 pandemic).  

Detention Issues

  •  There are currently 3,781 individuals who are or were in ICE custody and who have tested positive for COVID-19 since testing began in February 2020; 966 individuals were in custody and in isolation or monitoring as of July 22, 2020.  There are now 120 cases at PIDC, and more centers continue to report the first COVID-19 infections among the detained population.  ICE had tested 16,503 individuals in its custody for COVID-19 as of July 17, 2020.  
  • According to ICE statistics, there were 22,142 individuals in detention as of July 18, 2020, a small decline from the prior week.  This number includes 3,426 individuals who had established a claim for persecution or torture.  There were 3,080 book-ins in July as of July 18, 2020, making the rate of book-ins slightly higher for July thus far than they were in June.
  • Freedom for Immigrants continues to update its Detention Map that tracks reported COVID-19 cases at detention facilities around the country, as well as reported quarantines, inadequate sanitary conditions and other information. 
  • The Rapid Defense Network is tracking litigation around the country seeking the release of individuals who remain in ICE custody here.  
  • The Bronx Defenders, along with others, have launched a database that summarizes decisions in COVID-19 related cases for individuals in detention, and flags certain features of the decisions, including legal claims, defenses, pre-existing health conditions, whether there was a COVID-19 diagnosis, any past criminal convictions, conditions of release, and outcome.  
  • There have been a number of developments in the Flores litigation this week.  As reported by Law360, earlier this week counsel who represent three children in FRCs sought to intervene in the Flores case.  They argue that the lead counsel representing the plaintiffs, Peter Schey, is not adequately representing class members, contending that he favors presenting parents with the so-called "binary choice" of whether to have their children released to sponsors or remain detained with them.  At the same time, several long-time class counsel in the case moved to withdraw. Then in the O.M.G. v. Wolf case, Judge Boasberg declined to grant plaintiffs' preliminary injunction seeking the release of all parents from family detention centers.  That opinion is attached.  The government opposes intervention in Flores, saying that a conflict among class members would be a reason to de-certify the class.  The intervention motion also prompted the government to seek a stay of Monday's deadline to release all children in FRCs who have been detained for more than 20 days.  NBC News also reported on case developments this week.  Advocacy organizations sent a letter to DHS earlier this week urging that families in FRCs be released together.  That letter is attached.
  • AP News covered how COVID-19 spread at Otay Mesa, through interviews with staff and detained individuals.  
  • This week, Mother Jones spoke with two whistleblowers who work at Richwood Detention Center in Louisiana and detailed startling failures to equip guards and detained individuals with proper PPE, efforts to downplay the virus, and pressure to superficially reduce detained individuals' temperatures so that they would pass temperature checks and could be removed.  The Intercept also reported alarming stories from individuals detained at Stewart Detention Center in Georgia, who said they were victims of excessive force after asking for medical attention.
  • Houston Public Media reported that individuals in ICE detention in Texas are 15 times more likely to have COVID-19 than the general population.
  • As part of the special "Pandemia: Latinos in Crisis," CBS News interviewed individuals in immigration detention and their family members about detention conditions during COVID-19. 

Effects of Southern Border Closure on Asylum Seekers

  •  Data released by CIS on the number of credible and reasonable fear case receipts from July 1-15, 2020 demonstrate an increase in the number of credible fear and reasonable fear receipts as compared to the prior two months, but both numbers are still much lower than this time last year. According to CIS, it received 339 credible fear cases from July 1-15, 2020. There were 206 reasonable fear case receipts during the same time period.    
  • This week AP News reported that DHS is using hotels near the Mexico border in Arizona and Texas to detain children and families, sometimes for days or weeks, before they can be expelled under the CDC order.   The American Academy of Pediatrics issued a strong statement condemning the use of hotels to detain children, especially when there are many beds available in ORR shelters.  The monitor in the Flores case also filed a report expressing concerns about the use of hotels to detain accompanied and unaccompanied children.  According to the monitor, she became aware of the practice while interviewing someone detained at an FRC who reported being held in a hotel before his wife and child tested positive for COVID-19 and the family was transferred to the FRC.  The monitor's report is attached.
  • Late last Friday, members of Congress sent a letter to the Secretary of HHS and the CDC Director expressing concern about the now indefinite nature of the CDC order, and its impact on unaccompanied children and asylum seekers.  The letter also seeks responses to a number of questions, including any political pressure to issue the order.
  • Buzzfeed News interviews the young Honduran man whose case led to the first TRO against the government based on its attempt to expel the young man to Honduras under the CDC order.

July 17, 2020

Status of Immigration Courts and USCIS offices

  •  On Monday, EOIR announced that hearings in non-detained cases at courts without an announced opening date are postponed through July 31, 2020.  Current information on EOIR's operational status is available here.   
  • On Wednesday, USCIS issued a policy alert on applying discretion in adjudications.  The policy alert relates to the consolidation of existing policy guidance in the USCIS Policy Manual regarding officers' exercise of discretion in adjudication.  The alert references the President's June 22, 2020 Proclamation that addresses, among other things, administration of employment authorization benefits. The alert continues: "In addition to relying on statutory and regulatory provisions on employment authorization, USCIS reminds officers to refer to existing guidance, now consolidated in the USCIS Policy Manual, on the exercise of discretion in adjudications."  It is unclear whether this guidance is simply a restatement of existing policy, as USCIS contends, or indicates that USCIS will use its discretion differently when adjudicating applications going forward.  The policy became effective immediately, but is open for comment until August 14, 2020.
  • The Federal News Network covered the concerns of thousands of USCIS employees who face furlough starting August 3 and legislation introduced this week to provide the funding that USCIS says it needs to continue to operate without needing to resort to furloughs.  Earlier this week a group of Senators wrote a letter to colleagues urging that the funding be provided in the next coronavirus relief package, but that parameters be set to ensure that the funds are used appropriately.

Detention Issues

  •  There are currently 3,596 individuals who are or were in ICE custody and who have tested positive for COVID-19 since testing began in February 2020; 967 individuals were in custody and in isolation or monitoring as of July 16, 2020.  This week, a 51-year old gentleman of Mexican origin passed away at a hospital in Southern Florida from complications due to COVID-19, after being detained at Glades County Detention Center.  This is the third COVID-19 related death in ICE custody. There are now 92 cases at PIDC, and a particularly serious outbreak has developed at Immigration Centers of America in Farmville, VA, with over 300 individuals testing positive for COVID-19.  The Daily Beast covered the concerning situation at Farmville, including the origin of the outbreak, which may have resulted from a transfer of individuals from other detention centers, many of whom tested positive for COVID-19, in early June.  More centers are reporting COVID-19 infections among the detained population.  ICE had tested 13,562 individuals in its custody for COVID-19 as of July 10, 2020.  
  • According to ICE statistics, there were 22,340 individuals in detention as of July 11, 2020, a relatively small decline from the prior week.  This number includes 3,502 individuals who had established a claim for persecution or torture.  There were 1,879 book-ins from July 1-11, 2020, making the rate of book-ins slightly higher for July thus far than they were in June.
  • Freedom for Immigrants continues to update its Detention Map that tracks reported COVID-19 cases at detention facilities around the country, as well as reported quarantines, inadequate sanitary conditions and other information.  FFI also published an update and analysis on COVID-19 in detention covering June 19-July 16, which is available here.
  • FFI's update includes highlights from a Congressional hearing on Monday where the heads of four for-profit companies that run facilities housing individuals in ICE custody testified about their responses to COVID-19.  Testimony covered COVID-19 infection among individuals in detention as well as employees, sanitary conditions, and the reported use of pepper spray against individuals who were protesting about detention conditions.  The Government Accountability Project submitted a letter to Congressional representatives in advance of the hearing including allegations of mismanagement by one of the companies, La Salle Corrections, specifically in connection with the operation of the Richwood Correctional Center in Louisiana.  The allegations are based on information from Richwood employees, who the Government Accountability Project represents.  That letter is attached.  The Arizona Republic and NBC News also covered the hearing.  
  • The Rapid Defense Network is tracking litigation around the country seeking the release of individuals who remain in ICE custody here.  
  • The Bronx Defenders, along with others, have launched a database that summarizes decisions in COVID-19 related cases for individuals in detention, and flags certain features of the decisions, including legal claims, defenses, pre-existing health conditions, whether there was a COVID-19 diagnosis, any past criminal convictions, conditions of release, and outcome.  
  • As CNN reported, after a joint request of the parties late yesterday Judge Gee agreed to extend until July 27 today's deadline in Flores for ICE to release children detained at family residential centers (“FRC”) for more than 20 days.  Earlier this week, Judge Boasberg, the judge overseeing the O.M.G. v. Wolf case, indicated that he would not rule until next week on plaintiffs' motion for a preliminary injunction ordering the release of parents from family detention centers.  It now seems that Judge Boasberg may rule before the new deadline in Flores.  Advocates remain concerned that the government will present parents with a "binary choice" of remaining detained with them or being released to sponsors.  The Boston Globe covered the issue from the vantage point of Haitian families detained at the Berks FRC in Pennsylvania, and Buzz Feed covered a letter that medical experts who contract with DHS sent to Congress expressing concerns about DHS potentially repeating family separation at FRCs.
  • The Texas Tribune reports on two sisters from Guatemala who came to the US six years apart.  One came during the Obama administration, was granted asylum, and is now a lawful permanent resident.  The other failed to establish a credible fear of persecution last year, tried to live safely in Guatemala, but returned this spring due to continued threats.  She is stuck in detention in El Paso and has contracted COVID-19. Requests for humanitarian parole filed by her lawyer have been denied. 

Effects of Southern Border Closure on Asylum Seekers

  •  As reported by Reuters, yesterday DHS announced that restrictions on non-essential travel at U.S. ports of entry with Mexico and Canada will be extended through August 21, 2020. 
  • CBS News reported that only 61 of 1,650 unaccompanied children were transferred to ORR in June. The rest were expelled under Title 42.  

July 10, 2020

 New Proposed Rule Targets Asylum Seekers

  •  Yesterday, DHS and EOIR published a proposed rule that would amend existing regulations to include consideration of emergency public health concerns based on potential international threats from the spread of pandemics when making a determination as to whether an applicant is barred from eligibility for asylum or withholding of removal because “there are reasonable grounds for regarding [the non-citizen] as a danger to the security of the United States."  The proposed rule also would (1) provide for screening for this bar during expedited removal proceedings, preventing those found to be subject to the bar from presenting their protection claims in full removal proceedings; (2) require those non-citizens subject to the bar to meet their ultimate burden to demonstrate eligibility for CAT deferral of removal —i.e., that it is more likely than not that they would be tortured in the country of removal, in expedited removal screenings; and (3) permit DHS to determine whether to place into removal proceedings those non-citizens who are able to meet CAT deferral burden at the screening interview stage, or whether to remove them to a third country where they would not be tortured or persecuted.  Comments to the proposed rule are due on August 10, 2020.
  • Law360 reported on the proposed rule.

Status of Immigration Courts and USCIS offices

  •  On Monday, EOIR announced that hearings in non-detained cases at courts without an announced opening date are postponed through July 24, 2020.  Current information on EOIR's operational status is available here
  • Earlier this week, USCIS announced that it would further extend deadlines for responding to certain requests, notices, and decisions where the issuance date is between March 1 and September 11, 2020.   USCIS will consider a response to the covered requests and notices received within 60 calendar days after the response due date set in the request or notice before taking any action. It will consider a Form N-336 or Form I-290B received up to 60 calendar days from the date of the decision before it takes any action.

Detention Issues

  •  There are currently 3,090 individuals who are or were in ICE custody and who have tested positive for COVID-19 since testing began in February 2020; 883 individuals were in custody and in isolation or monitoring as of July 9, 2020.  There are now 84 cases at PIDC, and the outbreaks at Bluebonnet Detention Facility and Eloy Federal Contract Facility remain particularly acute.  ICE had tested 11,828 individuals in its custody for COVID-19 as of July 3, 2020.  
  • According to ICE statistics, there were 22,579 individuals in detention as of July 4, 2020, including 3,613 individuals who had established a claim for persecution or torture.  There were 5,082 book-ins in June, just under the number in May.
  • Freedom for Immigrants continues to update its Detention Map that tracks reported COVID-19 cases at detention facilities around the country, as well as reported quarantines, inadequate sanitary conditions and other information.  
  • The Rapid Defense Network is tracking litigation around the country seeking the release of individuals who remain in ICE custody here.  
  • The Bronx Defenders, along with others, have launched a database that summarizes decisions in COVID-19 related cases for individuals in detention, and flags certain features of the decisions, including legal claims, defenses, pre-existing health conditions, whether there was a COVID-19 diagnosis, any past criminal convictions, conditions of release, and outcome.  
  • BuzzFeed reports that, in a filing yesterday with the federal district court in DC, ICE urged Judge Boasberg to reject plaintiffs' request for a preliminary injunction ordering the release of parents in family residential centers.  Advocates fear that this position suggests ICE will respond to Judge Gee's June 26 order in the Flores case by presenting parents with the binary choice of releasing their children to sponsors or having them remain detained with them indefinitely.  An article from the Washington Post earlier this week provides additional background.
  • Last week, the Vera Institute of Justice released a report of findings from a new epidemiological model estimating the prevalence of COVID-19 in immigration detention. The model makes clear that ICE is likely severely under-reporting the number of COVID-19 infections in detention.
  • NBC News and the Arizona Republic both reported on the large COVID-19 outbreak at the Eloy Federal Contract Facility.  The Arizona Republic has accounts from two former employees, who described inadequate safety measures.  And NBC News reported that nearly half of the employees at the facility have tested positive for COVID-19, leading to restrictive conditions resulting from a staffing shortage.
  • Reuters reports on detained asylum seekers who face a Hobson's choice between giving up their claims for relief in the United States and facing death in their home country or compromising their health, and potentially their life, in detention due to COVID-19.
  • For palabra., Jenny Manrique covers the implications of removal flights to Latin America during the pandemic through the eyes of individuals removed to Colombia on a deportation flight in late March.  The Marshall Project with the New York Times investigates how ICE became a domestic and international spreader of COVID-19.

Effects of Southern Border Closure on Asylum Seekers

  •  According to CBP statistics, the agency conducted nearly 29,000 expulsions from the Southern border in June, up from approximately 20,000 in May.  During the same month, CBP only processed approximately 4,500 encounters pursuant to its immigration authority under Title 8.  CBP has conducted more than 72,000 expulsions since the CDC order went into effect in March.  CBP encountered 1,651 UAC during the month of June, compared to approximately 1,000 in the month of May.  It is likely that a high majority of them were or will be expelled to their home countries.  The number of single adults encountered by CBP in June also rose to 29,150 (from approximately 21,000 in May).  According to a CBP press release announcing the June data, single adult Mexican nationals accounted for just under 80% of encounters in June, and the CDC order enabled CBP to quickly "return" 89% of encounters.
  • Data released by CIS on the number of credible and reasonable fear case receipts from June 15-30, 2020 demonstrate an increase in the number of credible fear receipts and a decrease in the number of reasonable fear receipts as compared to the prior two months, but both numbers are still much lower than this time last year. According to CIS, it received 338 credible fear cases from June 15-30, 2020. There were 187 reasonable fear case receipts during the same time period.  
  • The El Paso Times reported on the real-world implications of the CDC order through the eyes of a young pregnant Honduran woman who was quickly turned around by immigration authorities after she presented herself at the Paso del Norte bridge.
  • On June 30, the Washington Post reported on the first confirmed COVID-19 case at the Matamoros tent camp.  Additional cases have since been confirmed.

June 28, 2020

Extension and Expansion of Presidential Proclamation

  • On Monday, the President issued a new proclamation extending the terms of his April proclamation until the end of the year, and expanding its reach to include several nonimmigrant visa categories.  The Proclamation also orders agencies to issue certain regulations or take certain actions.  The National Immigration Forum provides more information about who is affected by the Proclamation here.  AILA's summary of the Proclamation is here.
  • A piece in the Washington Post notes how the President's decision not to include temporary agricultural visas in the categories of those restricted by the Proclamation is consistent with our nation's historical treatment of agricultural laborers.

Status of Immigration Courts and USCIS offices

  • On Monday, EOIR announced that hearings in non-detained cases at courts without an announced opening date are postponed through July 10, 2020.  Current information on EOIR's operational status is available here.  Earlier today, EOIR released a one-page public health notice for individuals accessing EOIR facilities.
  • A group of Senators sent a letter to the Director of EOIR seeking information regarding EOIR's decision to resume non-detained hearings, and its communication of that decision to stakeholders.
  • The Washington PostCNN and other news outlets reported on a statement by USCIS' Deputy Director for Policy regarding the agency's plan to furlough more than 13,000 employees beginning August 3 if additional funding is not received from Congress. The statement says USCIS would pay back the $1.2 billion requested from Congress by adding a 10% surcharge to applications.

Detention Issues

  •  There are currently 2,521 individuals who are or were in ICE custody and who have tested positive for COVID-19; 810 individuals were in custody and in isolation or monitoring as of June 25, 2020.  Bluebonnet Detention Facility still has the largest outbreak with 253 cases, and there are 7 other facilities with more than 100 confirmed cases.  ICE had tested 8,858 individuals in its custody for COVID-19 as of June 19, 2020.  In an interview with a local ABC station, an ex-employee at the Bluebonnet facility said she warned others at the facility that COVID-19 would spread rapidly because of a lack of proper safety precautions, and that she left her position out of fear for her health.  
  • According to ICE statistics, there were 23,429 individuals in detention as of June 20, 2020, including 3,841 individuals who had established a claim for persecution or torture.  There were 4,559 book-ins in the first 20 days of June, which suggests that June's book-ins will be lower than the number in May.
  • Freedom for Immigrants continues to update its Detention Map that tracks reported COVID-19 cases at detention facilities around the country, as well as reported quarantines, inadequate sanitary conditions and other information.  
  • The Rapid Defense Network is tracking litigation around the country seeking the release of individuals who remain in ICE custody here.  Class counsel in Fraihat has filed a motion to enforce the preliminary injunction in that case.  They are seeking more aggressive remedies, including release, universal testing, prohibitions on transfer, prohibitions on use of solitary confinement as a means of infection control, intensive medical surveillance and planning for medically vulnerable people.  The expert declarations filed in support of the motion are available on the case page. They may be helpful in other cases, and counsel asks that others acknowledge in their filings that the declarations were filed in Fraihat.
  • Earlier this month DHS OIG released a report with the results of its survey of personnel in ICE detention facilities from April 8-20 regarding their experiences and challenges managing COVID-19 among individuals in custody as well as staff.  Facilities expressed their concerns about the ability to practice social distancing among detained individuals, and to isolate or properly quarantine those infected.
  • BuzzFeed reported on filings made public in the Flores case showing that 4 families at the Karnes County Residential Center have tested positive for COVID-19.  According to the ICE, the families were tested upon their arrival, have not interacted with other families detained at Karnes, and are currently in isolation.  ICE also said that it had offered COVID-19 tests to all families at Karnes, and that the results were pending.
  • The Immigrant Legal Resource Center, Immigrant Defense Project, and ACLU of California published a report showing how jails are worsening the COVID-19 pandemic by continuing to transfer individuals to ICE custody.

Effects of Southern Border Closure on Asylum Seekers

  •  Data released by CIS on the number of credible and reasonable fear case receipts from June 1-15, 2020 continue to confirm the effects of the border closure.  According to CIS, it received 262 credible fear cases from June 1-15, 2020. There were 212 reasonable fear case receipts during the same time period.  The same spreadsheet also shows the number of credible fear decisions and the type of decision (fear established vs. fear not established) for USCIS vs. USCBP since CBP started conducting some interviews, apparently in May of 2019.
  • On Wednesday, a federal district judge in Washington granted the request by the ACLU and other advocacy groups for a temporary restraining order in the first lawsuit challenging the legality of the CDC order.  The order prevents the government from removing the plaintiff, a teenager from Honduras, while the case is pending.  Attached here is the plaintiff's reply brief in support of the TRO.  CBS News reports on the hearing and the judge's ruling.  The Judge said, in part: "Even if the power to remove were read by section 265, the plaintiff has likelihood of success because the provision, in the Court's view, should be harmonized, to the maximum extent possible, with immigration statutes, including those already referenced that grant special protections to minors and also those immigration statutes that deal with communicable diseases and quarantines."
  • Yesterday Acting CBP Commissioner Mark Morgan testified at a Senate Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs oversight hearing.  As Roll Call reports Morgan was questioned about the number of unaccompanied children excluded pursuant to the CDC order, and he answered that approximately 2,000 unaccompanied minors have been processed pursuant to the CDC order, and approximately 300 have been processed under CBP's Title 8 authority.  Morgan also stated that CBP screens all unaccompanied minors for trafficking and protection concerns, and is complying with its non-refoulement obligations when applying the CDC order. As Roll Call reports, some have noted that Morgan's testimony regarding screening for trafficking and other protection concerns appeared inconsistent with public understanding of how the expulsion process is being implemented by CBP.  
  • This week Refugees International published a field report focusing on the difficulties faced by Guatemalans returned to their country during COVID-19.

June 20, 2020

While there have been victories to celebrate in our work in the last few months - such as releases won before DHS, immigration judges, and federal courts - Thursday's victory for DACA recipients in the Supreme Court was especially sweet, and helps provide inspiration to continue the fight.  While a permanent solution for the DACA community is needed, for now, at least, the program and its benefits will continue. 

Below is an update on recent developments in the immigration system related to COVID-19.

Status of Immigration Courts and USCIS offices

  •  On Monday, EOIR announced that seven immigration courts nationwide will resume non-detained hearings on June 29, 2020.  Other courts that have not resumed non-detained hearings by that date will resume non-detained hearings on Monday, July 6.  The next day, EOIR and DHS announced that MPP hearings and in-person document service would be postponed through July 17, 2020.  DHS and EOIR currently anticipate resuming MPP hearings on July 20, 2020, as long as safety and public health conditions support resumption.  EOIR and DHS also said that they would provide 15 days notice prior to resumption.  More information regarding the factors EOIR and DHS will use to determine whether to resume MPP hearings and other information on EOIR's operational status is available here
  • Courthouse News Service reports on concerns from practitioners and immigration judges that EOIR is not being transparent about the criteria for re-opening immigration courts or the safety measures that will be used.  The article mentions a letter that AILA and other organizations sent to the Director of EOIR earlier this week regarding EOIR's premature decision to resume the non-detained docket.  The letter recommends that EOIR postpone almost all non-detained hearings for the duration of the national public health emergency; invoke a moratorium on the issuance of in absentia orders once non-detained hearings resume; and engage in open communication with stakeholders and the public regarding its procedures and decisions.  
  • In a commentary, the Migration Policy Institute examines how USCIS' budgetary problems are due to administration policies and management, which have driven significant declines in immigration petitions and fee revenues, even as other parts of the fee-funded agency’s spending increased.  According to MPI, USCIS has more than doubled spending on vetting applications and immigration benefit fraud, but has not offered evidence indicating undetected levels of fraud exist. Amid the resulting slowdown in processing, the agency’s backlog of pending cases has swelled by more than 1 million, and processing times for most types of petitions have increased.
  • The New York Times reported on bipartisan pressure on USCIS to hold virtual naturalization ceremonies or waive the requirement altogether given the number of applicants waiting due to COVID-19 closures.  The Detroit Free Press covered a group of drive-thru citizenship oaths that happened in a USCIS field office parking lot.  Roll Call covered an apparent about-face from USCIS that had paused the processing of some applications for permanent residency for individuals living in the United States during the pandemic.  

Detention Issues

  •  There are currently 2,210 individuals who are or were in ICE custody and who have tested positive for COVID-19; 818 individuals were in custody and in isolation or monitoring as of June 18, 2020.  Bluebonnet Detention Facility now has the largest outbreak, and there are 6 other facilities with more than 100 confirmed cases.  ICE had tested 7,364 individuals in its custody for COVID-19 as of June 12, 2020.  
  • According to ICE statistics, there were 24,041 individuals in detention as of June 13, 2020, including 3,923 individuals who had established a claim for persecution or torture.  There were 3,020 book-ins in the first thirteen days of June, which suggests that June's book-ins will be lower than the number in May.
  • Freedom for Immigrants released an analysis and update on COVID-19 in ICE custody that covers the last three weeks.  FFI also continues to update its Detention Map that tracks reported COVID-19 cases at detention facilities around the country, as well as reported quarantines, inadequate sanitary conditions and other information.  
  • The Rapid Defense Network is tracking litigation around the country seeking the release of individuals who remain in ICE custody here.  
  • The ACLU released a report discussing the sharp rise of the use of solitary confinement in incarceration during the COVID-19 pandemic, including in immigration detention.
  • In a San Diego Union Tribune article ICE confirmed that it told Core Civic, the private company that runs Otay Mesa Detention Center, to block detained individuals' access to the telephone number used by an advocacy group that helped share individuals' stories about conditions at the detention center during the large COVID-19 outbreak at the facility.
  • NBC Latino reports on concerns and criticisms in the advocacy community about high bond amounts being set by DHS during the COVID-19 pandemic.

Effects of Southern Border Closure on Asylum Seekers

  •  Earlier this week, the Acting Secretary of DHS announced that DHS would continue to limit non-essential travel at land ports of entry with Canada and Mexico, extending existing measures until July 21.  These measures are distinct from the CDC order, which applies to all individuals traveling from Canada or Mexico who would otherwise be introduced into a congregate setting in any land or coastal POE or Border Patrol station at or near the border with Canada and Mexico, and remains in effect indefinitely.
  • The Southwest Border Migration statistics have been updated for May by Customs and Border Protection. The number of unaccompanied children has increased from last month to 1,001 in May (but down from 11,861 in May 2019). Many of these children have been expelled under Title 42 without access to protection. CBS News reports that only 39 unaccompanied children were transferred to the Office of Refugee Resettlement (ORR) shelter in May.
  • This week the government filed its opposition to one of the ACLU's lawsuits challenging the CDC order.   The opposition provides little new information about how the order is being enforced, but does reveal that the plaintiff, an unaccompanied teen from Honduras, was given an interview to determine whether he was more likely than not to be tortured if removed, and he did not pass that interview.  The brief defends the legality of the CDC order arguing that the CDC order is authorized by statute, that Congress intended the Public Health Services Act to temporarily take precedence over procedures provided in the immigration laws, and that the CDC's interpretation of the Act is entitled to deference (among other arguments).  The district court will hold oral argument on the TRO on June 24.
  • Relying on documents recently produced in litigation and government data, a fact sheet from Human Rights First shows that CBP can process migrants and asylum seekers encountered at or between ports of entry in hours, calling into question a premise of the CDC's order, that migrants must be held in congregate settings near the border for longer periods of time.
  • The National Immigration Forum summarizes the border closures and other executive actions taken during the pandemic.
  • More than 120 advocacy organizations sent a letter to the Acting Secretary of DHS objecting to measures taken during the pandemic that compromise safety and family unity for migrant children.
  • The Dallas Morning News published a moving article about activists' months-long fight to retrieve the body of a Ugandan migrant woman who died at a hospital in Mexico after being subjected to metering at the border.

June 12, 2020

Status of Immigration Courts and USCIS offices:

  •  Yesterday, EOIR issued an internal memo updating its guidance regarding practices adopted by adjudicatory components during COVID-19.  The memo supersedes an earlier March 18, 2020 memo and addresses guidelines for access to EOIR space, the phase out of e-mail filings as non-detained hearings resume, a review of existing authorities for managing and conducting hearings, and best practices for resolving as many cases as possible without a hearing.  
  • Two lawful permanent residents whose naturalization applications have been approved by USCIS and are under the jurisdiction of the Philadelphia Field Office but who have not been able to complete the final step in the naturalization process have filed a lawsuit in federal court on behalf of themselves and others similarly situated seeking an order that USCIS expedite their naturalization.  BuzzFeed has an article on the lawsuit.  Roll Call reports that USCIS resumed naturalization ceremonies last week, under restrictive conditions.
  • Fox News reports on a USCIS communication sent to its employees warning about the need for furloughs of thousands of workers on July 20 if the agency's current budget shortfall is not addressed.  An editorial in the Washington Post questions the reasons USCIS has given for its budget shortfall, pointing out agency policy decisions and advocating more Congressional oversight.

Detention Issues

  •  There are currently 1,849 individuals who are or were in ICE custody and who have tested positive for COVID-19; 785 individuals were in custody and in isolation or monitoring as of June 11, 2020.  Otay Mesa still has the largest outbreak and there are now 34 confirmed cases at PIDC, and 1 at El Valle Detention Facility.  ICE had only tested 5,096 individuals in its custody for COVID-19 as of June 5, 2020.  Earlier this week, ICE issued a press release saying that it had offered voluntary COVID-19 tests to all individuals in its custody at the Aurora Contract Detention Facility in Colorado and the Northwest ICE Processing Center in Washington state.
  • According to ICE statistics, there were 24,713 individuals in detention as of June 6, 2020, including 4,154 individuals who had established a claim for persecution or torture.  There were 1,422 book-ins in the first six days of June.
  • Freedom for Immigrants continues to update its Detention Map that tracks reported COVID-19 cases at detention facilities around the country, as well as reported quarantines, inadequate sanitary conditions and other information.  
  • The Rapid Defense Network is tracking litigation around the country seeking the release of individuals who remain in ICE custody here.  
  • As Law360 reports, last weekend a federal judge in South Florida issued a preliminary injunction ordering ICE to improve conditions at three detention centers and limit transfers to and from those facilities to address the COVID-19 pandemic.  The court did not order any detainee releases and said such requests must be pursued on an individual basis.  The preliminary injunction replaces an earlier temporary restraining order.  
  • Law360 also reported on an order from a federal judge in California granting a preliminary injunction in a case filed by individuals detained at Mesa Verde Detention Facility and Yuba County Jail.  The court ordered ICE to maintain the safety parameters put in place in an earlier temporary restraining order, including dropping the number of detainees in custody.  While the court did not grant all of the relief sought by plaintiffs, it was critical of ICE's resistance to temporary releases.
  • NBC News reported on disturbing allegations by individuals detained at La Palma Correctional Center in Arizona who said that guards forced them to clean the detention center without adequate safeguards.  Individuals also described other troubling substandard conditions.  Freedom for Immigrants and the Inland Coalition for Immigrant Justice sent a complaint to the Los Angeles ICE Field Office, the warden of Adelanto Detention Center, and DHS CRCL raising concerns about complaints that individuals at Adelanto were being exposed to hazardous chemicals by staff in the facility.  The chemicals are allegedly being used to clean and disinfect the facility but numerous individuals report harmful side effects.

Effects of Southern Border Closure on Asylum Seekers

  •  According to CBP statistics, the agency expelled more than 20,000 migrants from the Southern border in May.  During the same month, CBP only processed approximately 2,500 migrants pursuant to its immigration authority under Title 8.  CBP encountered 1,000 UAC during the month of May at or between ports of entry.  It is likely that a high majority of them were or will be expelled to their home countries.  In a media release announcing the May numbers, CBP said that, in enforcing the CDC order, it had processed and returned, "in under two hours, 96 percent of those subject to the Order." 
  • Earlier this week, the ACLU and other advocacy groups filed the first two lawsuits challenging the CDC order.  The two lawsuits were filed in federal district court in Washington, DC.  One is on behalf of an unaccompanied child from Honduras who is still in the US.  The court will hold a hearing on June 24, 2020 on Plaintiff's motion for a temporary restraining order, and the Court has ordered that the child not be removed from the United States before that time.  The second is on behalf of an unaccompanied child from El Salvador who was already expelled to her home country.  The judge assigned to that case has not taken any action as the complaint does not seek a preliminary injunction.  An article from ProPublica focuses on the case of the young man from Honduras, and includes a statement from CBP that it had expelled 2,175 "single minors" under the CDC order as of June 2.  CBS News also covered the case filing.  The lawsuits argue that the statutory authorization for the CDC order does not authorize deportation, and that the order violates the TVPRA, the asylum statute, the withholding statute, and the statute implementing the United States' obligations under the Convention Against Torture. 
  • The El Paso Times published an article on the expulsion of unaccompanied minor children under the CDC order, which includes a quote from Commission member Mark Greenberg.
  • The Washington Post reports that deportation flights to Guatemala resumed earlier this week for the first time in nearly a month, though Guatemala had received some "humanitarian" flights during this time period.  All individuals on the flight came with medical certificates saying they were free from the virus.

June 5, 2020

This week the country's attention rightly has been focused on the murder of George Floyd and the protests around the nation.  The Commission stands in solidarity with those calling out our country's failure to adequately address systemic violence, racism, and injustice.  We appreciate the work all of you do to try to make this world a more just and fair place for all. 

Though the pandemic has not captured as much of the country's attention this week, it continues to impact the immigration system in many ways.  Below is an update on recent developments in the immigration system related to COVID-19.

Status of Immigration Courts and USCIS offices

  •  Many immigration courts were closed at various points this week due to demonstrations near courthouses.  Current information from EOIR regarding court closures, filing by email at individual courts, and individual standing orders can be found here.
  • Yesterday certain USCIS field offices and asylum offices resumed non-emergency in-person services to the public.  More information can be found here.  AILA sent a letter to USCIS discussing recommended measures as the agency begins to re-open. 
  • As reports continue of potential furloughs at USCIS later this summer, AILA sent a letter to Congressional appropriators regarding oversight that should be conducted before any additional funding is provided.  
  • Yesterday, AILA sent a letter to ICE officials encouraging them to continue suspending in-person check-ins for alternatives-to-detention participants and accepting I-246 stay of removal applications by mail for at least the next 90-120 days.  
  • TRAC Immigration reports on how the postponement of many immigration hearings during COVID-19 is impacting non-citizens at different stages of the process.

Detention Issues

  •  There are currently 1,623 individuals who are or were in ICE custody and who have tested positive for COVID-19.  ICE has started to provide more information about COVID cases among the detained population including the number of confirmed cases currently under isolation or monitoring at each facility with confirmed cases.  Otay Mesa still has the largest outbreak.  ICE has tested 3,146 detained individuals.  As the Houston Chronicle reported, one in five individuals in ICE detention at the Houston Contract Detention Facility has tested positive for COVID-19. According to ICE statistics, there were 25,421 individuals in detention as of May 30, 2020, including 4,335 individuals who had established a claim for persecution or torture.  There have been 7,134 book-ins in May as of May 30, nearly 1,400 fewer than in April.
  • The Vera Institute of Justice provided a preliminary information regarding a forthcoming study suggesting that COVID-19 is much more prevalent in ICE detention than has been reported.
  • Freedom for Immigrants continues to update its Detention Map that tracks reported COVID-19 cases at detention facilities around the country, as well as reported quarantines, inadequate sanitary conditions and other information. 
  • The Rapid Defense Network is tracking litigation around the country seeking the release of individuals who remain in ICE custody here
  • A group of Senators wrote a letter to the Acting Secretary of DHS urging ICE to halt all transfers between detention facilities, and from criminal to immigration detention, and to increase testing of individuals in ICE detention. 
  • Law 360 covered a hearing in federal court in Southern Florida earlier this week where the judge heard virtual testimony from three individuals detained at three different facilities.  The witnesses disputed the government's assertions about conditions at the detention centers and the government's compliance with the court's prior order.
  • Law 360 also covered a hearing in federal court in Massachusetts where a federal judge is being asked to reconsider his preliminary injunction ordering that all individuals in ICE detention at the Bristol County Detention Center be tested for COVID-19.  The Judge grappled with how many individuals can be detained while allowing for appropriate social distancing.
  • The LA Times reported on how federal judges have responded differently to petitions around the country seeking the release of individuals from ICE detention.
  • Earlier this week the Senate Judiciary Committee held a hearing on "Examining Best Practices for Incarceration and Detention During COVID-19".  A video of the hearing, and the witnesses' written statements, can be accessed at the link.  ABC News and Yahoo also covered the hearing. Organizations such as Amnesty International and Witness at the Border provided copies of their statements for the record.  In advance of the hearing, Human Rights First prepared a timeline showing warnings received by the Administration about the potential for large outbreaks in ICE detention.
  • The New York Times magazine contains a feature article about the experiences of individuals detained at the Irwin County Detention Center in Georgia during the pandemic.

Effects of Southern Border Closure on Asylum Seekers

  •  Data released by USCIS on the number of credible and reasonable fear case receipts from May 16-31, 2020 continue to confirm the effects of the border closure.  According to CIS, it received 206 credible fear cases from May 16-31, 2020. There were 202 reasonable fear case receipts during the same time period.  
  • CBS News reports on the continuation of border closure measures as parts of the country continue to re-open.  The article includes an interview with a Brazilian asylum seeker who was subjected to the CDC order and did not pass an initial CAT screening interview.  His lawyer was not allowed to participate in the interview.  The article also reported on unpublished USCIS statistics showing that, between March 20 and May 27, CBP officials only allowed 85 migrants processed under the CDC directive to tell asylum officers why they fled their home countries, and just four of them were allowed to stay in the country to request CAT relief.
  • An article in the Nation considers whether COVID-19 means the end of asylum law in the United States.

May 29, 2020

Status of Immigration Courts and USCIS offices:

  •  On Friday, EOIR announced that hearings in non-detained cases at immigration courts other than the Honolulu Immigration Court will be postponed through Friday, June 26.  The Honolulu Immigration Court will resume hearings in non-detained cases on Monday, June 15. Current information from EOIR regarding court closures, filing by email at individual courts, and individual standing orders can be found here.
  • DHS sent a letter to Human Rights First clarifying when MPP participants should present at a port-of-entry to receive tear sheets and notices of hearing for rescheduled hearing dates.  The letter also clarified that notices of hearing and tear sheets are not required for entry to the United States. "Although these documents speed the entry process for the individual, CBP will process him/her into the United States to attend his/her removal hearing so long as CBP is able to confirm the individual’s identity and validate that s/he is on the docket for a given day—as has always been the case. Of course, DHS continues to encourage individuals in removal hearings to maintain the most current hearing-related documents . . . ."  
  • USCIS announced more details about its plan to begin reopening asylum offices and field offices on June 4.  That information can be found here.
  • CNN was one of many outlets that wrote articles regarding USCIS' request for an additional $1.2 billion in funding from Congress, and its threat to furlough some staff if additional funding is not received.  USCIS claims its budget shortfall is due to a decrease in revenue during COVID-19, but others blame Administration policy decisions.
  • The American Immigration Council published a comprehensive report on the impact of COVID-19 on non-citizens and all aspects of the immigration system.

Access to Legal Information and Services

  • The Vera Institute of Justice created a website, Immigrant Justice and the COVID-19 Pandemic, which includes a compilation of resources and information for the public, advocates, attorneys, government officials, and other stakeholders.

Detention Issues

  •  There are currently 1392 individuals who are or were in ICE custody and who have tested positive for COVID-19, including 158 individuals at Otay Mesa,132 individuals at Bluebonnet Detention facility in Anson, Texas, 116 individuals at Winn Correctional Center in Louisiana, and 5 other facilities with more than 50 cases. According to ICE, it has tested only 2670 detained individuals for COVID-19.  A 34-year old gentleman from Guatemala became the second individual to die after contracting COVID-19 while in ICE custody.  The gentleman had been detained at Stewart Detention Center in Lumpkin, Georgia.
  • According to ICE statistics, there were 25,911 individuals in detention as of May 23, 2020, including 4,449 individuals who had established a claim for persecution or torture.  There have been 5,580 book-ins in May as of May 23, which suggests that book-ins this month will be lower than April by approximately 14%.
  • Freedom for Immigrants published its fourth biweekly update on COVID-19 in ICE detention.  FFI also continues to update its Detention Map that tracks reported COVID-19 cases at detention facilities around the country, as well as reported quarantines, inadequate sanitary conditions and other information. 
  • The Rapid Defense Network is tracking litigation around the country seeking the release of individuals who remain in ICE custody here.  Last Friday, Judge Gee issued a new order in the Flores case (the order is attached).  Judge Gee found that ORR had not complied with her prior order to provisionally release any minors whose vetted sponsors are unable to obtain fingerprints due to pandemic-related closures.  Judge Gee also concluded that ICE had failed to provide sufficient individualized explanations for the failure to release minors from family residential centers.  Finally, the Court found that, although "ICE did not seek or obtain formal waivers from detained parents of their children’s Flores rights during ICE officers’ conversations with detained parents on or about May 15, 2020, those conversations caused confusion and unnecessary emotional upheaval and did not appear to serve the agency’s legitimate purpose of making continuous individualized inquiries regarding efforts to release minors."  Judge Gee ordered ORR and ICE to file reports by June 8, and required ICE's report to provide a specific explanation for the continued detention of each child detained beyond 20 days.  Finally, Judge Gee ordered the parties to meet and confer "regarding the adoption and implementation of proper written advisals and other protocols to inform detained guardians about minors’ rights under the FSA and obtain information regarding available sponsor."  The Washington Post wrote an article covering the hearing and Judge Gee's order.
  • On the COVID-19 portion of its website, ICE provided an update on providing access to free calls in detention: "ICE began providing 520 minutes of free domestic or international phone or video calls per month to detainees on April 22 at all facilities served by Talton Communications (serving approximately 57% of the ICE population), and has been negotiating with all other facilities to provide 500 minutes or more."
  • Today, UN Human Rights experts issued a statement calling on the U.S. government to release individuals from immigration detention so as to reduce health risks to detained individuals and staff, and noted that particular care and attention should be given to vulnerable groups.
  • This coming Tuesday, June 2, at 10:00 am the Senate Judiciary Committee will hold a hearing on "Examining Best Practices for Incarceration and Detention During COVID-19".  Though there are no witnesses currently listed, we understand there will be government witnesses, and that the Democratic witness will be Dr. Scott Allen, an expert consultant for DHS' Office of Civil Rights and Civil Liberties who previously served as an agency whistleblower in 2018 during the family separation crisis.
  • Seventeen Senate Democrats sent a letter to the Acting Secretary of DHS urging DHS to halt the transfer of individuals in ICE detention between facilities, including from criminal custody to immigration custody, so as to avoid aggravating the spread of COVID-19.  The letter also urges DHS to test more detained individuals.
  • Physicians for Human Rights, Women’s Refugee Commission, and Freedom for Immigrants have prepared a new resource, “Recommendations for Safe Release Procedures from Immigration Detention During the COVID-19 Pandemic.” The document provides a guide for steps to take to prepare for and support the release of individuals or families who were in ICE detention, including measures related to transportation and housing. 
  • This week the LA Times published an article discussing how the recent trend of removals of children amounts to a new form of family separation.
  • The Gothamist reports on a Mexican gentleman who was a named plaintiff in a lawsuit seeking the release of individuals in ICE custody at the Elizabeth Detention Center in New Jersey.  He was deported to Mexico on May 19, the same day as a federal judge ordered that he not be removed.  The gentleman has not been heard from since.
  • Oxfam has prepared an online sign-on letter to the Acting Secretary of DHS encouraging the release of individuals from ICE detention.  Anyone can sign their name.
  • The National Immigration Forum hosted a press call in which faith and law enforcement leaders urged the Administration to immediately end its reported “binary choice” policy (forcing parents to choose between separation from their children and indefinite detention) and release non-violent immigrant detainees amid the public health crisis.

Effects of Southern Border Closure on Asylum Seekers

  •  More than 260 organizations sent a letter to the Acting Secretary of DHS and the Director of the CDC opposing the indefinite suspension of protections for asylum seekers and unaccompanied children reflected in the latest CDC order.
  • The Inter-American Commission on Human Rights issued a statement expressing concern about the "paralysis" of the asylum system in the United States and the conditions facing migrants waiting in Mexico.  The statement also reminded states of their obligations under international law with regard to access to asylum and human rights protection for individuals in their jurisdiction.
  • The LA Times reported on Cuban asylum seekers with medical training who are tending to fellow migrants in the Matamoros tent camp while waiting for their immigration hearings.  

May 22, 2020

Status of Immigration Courts and USCIS offices 

  • Current information from EOIR regarding court closures, filing by email at individual courts, and individual standing orders can be found here.
  • An article from Roll Call discusses the perilous situation for migrants in MPP proceedings, who, due to the postponement of all MPP hearings during the pandemic, must wait longer in Mexico.  The article includes a statement by the Acting CBP Commissioner that the Administration is reassessing the structure of MPP given safety concerns surrounding the pandemic, but did not provide any further details. 

Detention Issues

  •  There are currently 1201 individuals who are or were in ICE custody and who have tested positive for COVID-19, including 155 individuals at Otay Mesa, 111 individuals at Bluebonnet Detention facility in Anson, Texas, and 6 other facilities with more than 50 cases.  According to ICE, it has tested only 2,394 detained individuals for COVID-19.  A 74 year old gentleman with severe health problems committed suicide at the Mesa Verde Detention Facility in Bakersfield, California earlier this week.  The ACLU provided more information about this tragic death.
  • According to ICE statistics, there were 26,660 individuals in detention as of May 16, 2020, including 4,616 individuals who had established a claim for persecution or torture.  There have been 3,899 book-ins in May so far, which suggests that book-ins this month will be slightly lower than April.
  • Freedom for Immigrants continues to update its Detention Map that tracks reported COVID-19 cases at detention facilities around the country, as well as reported quarantines, inadequate sanitary conditions and other information. 
  • In a letter to members of Congress, the DHS Inspector General said that his office will be conducting a review to determine whether ICE effectively managed the crisis at its detention facilities and adequately safeguarded the health and safety of both detainees in their custody and their staff.  The Inspector General also said that it was conducting a remote inspection of U.S. Customs and Border Protection and its ability to manage the COVID19 pandemic at their facilities with respect to staff and the detainees in their custody.
  • The Rapid Defense Network is tracking litigation around the country seeking the release of individuals who remain in ICE custody here.    
  • Late last week, reports surfaced that at ICE's three family residential centers, officers had given detained parents the choice of having their children released to sponsors, or staying with them in detention indefinitely.  Amnesty International published an accounting of what occurred, based on interviews with legal service providers.  These accounts seemed to be confirmed in a May 15, 2020 filing by ICE in the Flores case (attached here) where ICE listed "parent does not wish to separate" as the first reason for denying parole for almost all children remaining in FRCs.  But ICE released a press statement yesterday generally denying these reports and saying that it used a form previously disclosed to the court to interview parents as part of individual parole decisions to comply with the May 15 filing deadline.  Judge Gee held another hearing in the case today.  Members of Congress sent a letter to the Acting Secretary of DHS and the Acting Director of ICE expressing concern about the reports and asking a number of clarifying questions.
  • Members of Congress wrote a letter to the Acting Secretary of DHS and the Acting Secretary of ICE urging them to ensure that individuals in all facilities be given access to the 520 free minutes of phone access per month that had been promised by ICE.
  • A Cuban gentleman detained at the Joe Corley facility in Houston published a moving editorial in the Houston Chronicle about the dangers he and his fellow detainees face because of the pandemic.
  • On Monday, Pro Publica published an article about removals of children during the pandemic that references two ProBAR cases and includes a quote from ProBAR's Legal Director, Carly Salazar.  The LA Times also published another article about the government deporting children with removal orders from MPP proceedings.
  • This article from AP News contains comments from the Guatemalan President regarding his frustration that the U.S. government continues to remove people to Guatemala who end up testing positive for COVID-19, even after the U.S. had promised to start testing all individuals before allowing them to board removal flights.  The Congressional Hispanic Caucus sent a letter urging the Acting Secretary of DHS and the Secretary of State to halt deportations and expulsions during the pandemic.
  • News outlets continue to report on how transfers of individuals is contributing to outbreaks at detention centers, including an article from the Miami Herald and a video piece from Vice News Tonight.
  • In this article from NBC News a guard from an ICE detention facility describes his fear of contracting COVID-19 due to inadequate safety measures at the facility.

Effects of Southern Border Closure on Asylum Seekers: 

  •  On Tuesday, the Director of the CDC issued an order extending the border closure indefinitely.  The Amended Order and Extension expands who is covered to include all persons traveling from Canada or Mexico who would otherwise be introduced into a congregate setting in any land or coastal POE or Border Patrol station at or near the border with Canada and Mexico, with the same exceptions as the earlier order.  It went into effect on May 21, 2020 and will remain in effect until the CDC Director determines "that the danger of further introduction of COVID-19 into the United States has ceased to be a serious danger to the public health, and the continuation of the Order is no longer necessary to protect the public health." The amended order is to be reassessed every 30 days, but says that the public health risks that are the basis for the amended order "are unlikely to abate in the coming months."  DHS also published a notice that continues to temporarily limit the travel of individuals from Mexico into the United States at land ports of entry along the United States-Mexico border to "essential travel."  This notice is in effect from May 21-June 22, 2020.  A similar notice was published regarding the Northern border.
  • The day before the amended order was announced, a group of public health experts sent a letter to the Secretary of HHS and the CDC Director urging them to withdraw the border closure order because it does not protect public health.  The same groups also published a list of recommendations for safely managing asylum seekers and unaccompanied children at the border.
  • Data released by CIS on the number of credible and reasonable fear case receipts from May 1-15, 2020 continue to confirm the effects of the border closure.  According to CIS, it received 248 credible fear cases from May 1-15, 2020. There were 227 reasonable fear case receipts during the same time period.  The same spreadsheet also shows the number of credible fear decisions and the type of decision (fear established vs. fear not established) for USCIS vs. USCBP since CBP started conducting some interviews, apparently in May of 2019.
  • The Congressional Research Service published an updated version of a Legal Sidebar examining the laws generally governing the admission and exclusion of non-citizens at the border, which includes a discussion of the border closure.
  • Yesterday, UNICEF issued a statement calling out the United States' expulsion of children, and called on all governments to end pushbacks and deportations of unaccompanied or separated children, as well as children with their families without prior adequate protection and health screenings. The New York Times' Caitlin Dickerson published a moving article about the expulsion of unaccompanied children during the pandemic.
  • This interesting post from the Bipartisan Policy Center examines data to demonstrate how DHS has increasingly relied on the CDC order to turn away migrants, but questions whether it is viable long-term, since it relies on the cooperation of other governments, such as Mexico and Guatemala.
  • On Tuesday, CBP announced  that the San Diego sector will begin transporting Mexican nationals with repatriations back to Mexico City via airplane. All individuals will be medically screened to ensure they are fit for travel and surgical masks will be provided prior to boarding and worn throughout the flight.  The government of Mexico selected Mexico City as the destination, and one of the goals is to reduce the strain on Mexico’s resources along the border.  CBP said it has observed an increase in Mexican nationals making repeated attempts to enter the U.S.
  • A number of advocacy organizations issued an explainer discussing why deportations during the pandemic are dangerous and expelling migrants from the U.S. border is unlawful.
  • Border Report discusses how the extension of the border closure is hurting asylum seekers the most.  The article also covers challenges for migrants waiting in the Matamoros tent camp, and the work of Global Response Management to prepare to treat any migrants at the camp who may become infected with COVID-19.  There have been no confirmed cases at the camp.

May 15, 2020

Status of Immigration Courts and USCIS offices

  • Today, EOIR announced that all hearings in non-detained cases are postponed through, and including, Friday June 12, 2020. On Sunday, EOIR announced that all MPP hearings will remain postponed through Friday, June 19.  It also announced that, beginning that day and until June 8, MPP migrants would not need to travel to a U.S. port of entry to retrieve new court dates. In the announcement, EOIR tells individuals with a hearing date prior to June 22nd to present themselves at the port of entry identified on their tear sheet one month later than the date indicated on their most recently noticed date. For example, if the hearing date is May 10, individuals should present themselves on June 10.  Law 360 published an article about the announcement with interviews from advocates recounting that migrants continued to present at ports of entry this week to pick up tear sheets, and discussing why the need to re-schedule hearings int his way reveals one of the inherent flaws and injustices of MPP.  Current information from EOIR regarding court closures, filing by email at individual courts, and individual standing orders can be found here.
  • An immigration attorney discusses her personal battle with COVID-19 while trying to defend and protect her detained clients in this moving opinion piece for Newsweek.

Detention Issues

  • There are currently 965 individuals who are or were in ICE custody and who have tested positive for COVID-19. According to ICE's website, it has tested only 1804 detained individuals for COVID-19.  This means that more than half of the individuals who ICE has tested have tested positive for the virus.  The data also shows confirmed cases at many more detention centers than in previous weeks.
  • According to ICE statistics, there were 27,908 individuals in detention as of May 9, 2020, including 4,835 individuals who had established a claim for persecution or torture.  There have been 2,278 book-ins in May so far.
  • Freedom for Immigrants' third update on COVID-19 in ICE detention is now available. It includes information from April 30 to May 14 on the continuation of transfers between facilities with known cases of COVID-19, medical neglect, and retaliation for internal organizing.  The organization also continues to update its Detention Map that tracks reported COVID-19 cases at detention facilities around the country, as well as reported quarantines, inadequate sanitary conditions and other information. 
  • The Rapid Defense Network is tracking litigation around the country seeking the release of individuals who remain in ICE custody here.  Earlier this week, a federal judge in Massachusetts issued an opinion explaining the reasons for ordering ICE to test all individuals in its custody at the Bristol County House of Corrections, as well as all staff who come into contact with them, and not admit any new individuals into ICE custody there.  The Court found that withholding the injunction would cause irreparable harm, and that ICE's conduct likely showed a deliberate indifference to a substantial risk of serious harm to detainees' health.  Wendy quoted from this decision at the beginning of this afternoon's meeting.   
  • This week, the House Judiciary Committee Democrats hosted a virtual roundtable on ICE's response to COVID-19.  The House Members heard from a gentleman recently released from ICE detention, a Colorado nurse whose husband is currently detained by ICE, and Heidi Altman from NIJC.
  • Mother Jones reports on the case of a gentleman from Honduras who died from COVID-19 soon after being released from ICE custody at a detention center in Ohio that now has 47 confirmed cases of COVID-19 among those in immigration custody.
  • The LA Times reports on a trend of ORR refusing to release UAC, and instead deporting them.   The story also reports that there are only 1,800 children in ORR care.  BuzzFeed also highlighted the story of two young girls, 8 and 10, who were in MPP proceedings and who DHS is trying to quickly deport.
  • This article from an NBC affiliate discusses an open letter to ICE signed by more than 4,000 doctors urging it to release people from detention.  The article includes video taken by a LPR detained in California discussing the conditions he and others faced.

Effects of Southern Border Closure on Asylum Seekers

  • Earlier this week, Democratic members of the House Committee on Foreign Affairs and Senator Menendez published a letter to the Secretary of State, the Secretary of HHS, and the Acting Secretary of DHS criticizing what they described as a "deeply flawed" legal justification for the border closure that they had received in late April.  The legal justification provided by the State Department states that the CDC order complies with domestic law and that the federal government is not obligated to conform its conduct to International treaties that are not self-executing or not otherwise implemented into domestic law by an Act of Congress.  Professor Oona Hathaway criticizes the Administration's rationale in a piece for Just Security.
  • The Washington PostAP News, and the New York Times, about the real-life impacts of the border closure, the number of migrants who have been expelled, and the potential that the Administration will seek to extend the CDC order indefinitely.
  • Human Rights First also published a new report that updates its prior reporting on MPP and metering, and also contains accounts from migrants expelled under the new border closure policy.  It also attacks the legal and public health rationales for the order.
  • Lucas Guttentag and Dr. Stefano M. Bertozzi published an opinion piece in the New York Times explaining why the border closure does not protect public health and represents an abdication of the country's legal and humanitarian obligations.

May 8, 2020

First COVID-related death in ICE detention

Earlier this week, Carlos Escobar Mejia passed away in a California hospital after contracting COVID-19 at the Otay Mesa Detention Center. 

Carlos Escobar Mejia—whose sister Rosa called him Netio—was not just kind, but "one-of-a-kind." Over thirty years ago, Netio came to the United States from El Salvador, and while his sisters became citizens, he never got his green card. He entered the Otay Mesa Detention Center in January, after Border Patrol stopped a car in which he was a passenger; Netio was wheelchair-bound, after diabetes led to the amputation of a foot, and he could not drive. Three weeks ago—after the facility had become a COVID-19 hotspot—Netio was denied bond because of an arrest from the 1990s that was dismissed in court. Netio lived for his mother while she lived, and for his sisters once his mother had passed. His 58th birthday was later this month, and he wanted to get out to celebrate with his sisters. On Tuesday, Netio joined his mother instead, as Carlos Escobar Mejia was the first person in ICE custody lost to COVID-19

May he rest in peace, and may we feel his presence as we keep fighting for the liberation of those still inside. 

Status of Immigration Courts and USCIS offices

  •  EOIR announced on Monday that non-detained hearings through May 29, 2020 will be rescheduled.   Current information from EOIR regarding court closures, filing by email at individual courts, and individual standing orders can be found here
  • The DOJ Office of Inspector General is conducting a limited scope review of EOIR's handling of the COVID-19 pandemic.  The review "will assess EOIR’s communication to staff, parties to proceedings, and the public about immigration court operations; its use of personal protective equipment; its use of worksite flexibilities; and its ability to mitigate health risks while maintaining operations during the COVID-19 pandemic."  

Detention Issues

  •  There are currently 753 individuals who are or were in ICE custody and who have tested positive for COVID-19, including 133 individuals at the Otay Mesa Detention Center.  On Tuesday, the LA Times published an article about conditions at Otay Mesa during the pandemic. Senator Feinstein has called for a hearing on the death of Mr. Escobar Mejia and conditions in ICE detention during the pandemic.  According to ICE's website, it has tested only 1528 detained individuals for COVID-19. ICE also has started reporting on its website on the number of "judicial releases" or the number of individuals ICE has released pursuant to court order. The information ICE provides regarding these releases includes the criminal charges or records of some of the individuals released.  Freedom for Immigrants provides a map on its website that tracks reported COVID-19 cases at detention facilities around the country, as well as reported quarantines, inadequate sanitary conditions and other information. 
  • According to ICE statistics, there were 28,865 individuals in detention as of May 2, 2020, including 5,040 individuals who had established a claim for persecution or torture.  There were 8,510 book-ins in the month of April.  In other months this fiscal year the number of book ins has ranged between 19,368 and nearly 25,000.
  • ICE leadership told congressional staffers earlier this week that they are providing 520 free minutes of phone time per month to every person in ICE custody at all facilities during the course of pandemic.  Advocates report uneven access at facilities around the country since ICE's announcement.
  • An article on the CDC's website discusses COVID-19 in correctional and detention facilities in the United States from February-April, 2020.  The article uses data to approximate the incidences of confirmed COVID-19 cases in the country's correctional and detention facilities, and provides guidance for facilities.
  • The Rapid Defense Network is tracking litigation around the country seeking the release of individuals who remain in ICE custody here.  The Ninth Circuit largely stayed a preliminary injunction that had ordered that the Adelanto detention center not accept any new detainees and reduce its population to such a level so as to allow for proper social distancing.  That order is attached.
  • The Miami Herald published an article discussing how ICE is transferring many individuals from detention centers in South Florida covered by a recent court order, rather than releasing them, after a federal judge clarified that her prior ruling ordering ICE to reduce the population of the detention centers permitted ICE to transfer individuals from those centers, in addition to releasing them.
  • This article from Politico focuses on Natchez, Mississippi and Lumpkin, Georgia as examples of small, rural, Southern communities that have become concerned at continued transfers of individuals into ICE custody at nearby detention centers, and the implications it could have for local COVID-19 transmission and the already strained health systems.  According to ICE's website, there are currently 15 confirmed cases at the Adams County Correction Center, in Natchez, and 11 confirmed cases at the Stewart Detention Center in Lumpkin.  An article from the Colorado Independent also focuses on transfers in an out of a detention facility in Aurora.
  • On Wednesday, the Congressional Hispanic Caucus sent a letter to the Acting Secretary of DHS and the Secretary of HHS regarding the treatment of unaccompanied children during COVID-19.  The letter also asks the Secretaries to provide answers to more than 10 questions.
  • On Monday, Veronica Escobar and other members of Congress sent a letter to the Acting ICE Director and the DHS Inspector General.  The letter encourages ICE to release non-violent detainees, follow CDC guidelines, and halt the transfer and removal of individuals in detention during the pandemic.  The letter also asks the OIG to include these issues in the remote inspection it has initiated of ICE's efforts to address the pandemic.  
  • On Wednesday, AILA and other organizations sent a letter to the Acting Secretary of DHS and the Acting ICE Director asking for a coordinated and timely plan to release individuals in ICE custody.  
  • Yesterday, the Immigration Justice Campaign and its local partners filed a complaint with DHS CRCL and DHS OIG about conditions for migrants in ICE detention during the pandemic.  The complaint documents ICE's persistent failure to provide required hygiene and cleaning supplies, PPE, and access to testing and medical care.

Effects of Southern Border Closure on Asylum Seekers

  •  CBP has released its border statistics for April, which show the impact of the border closure.  In April, Border Patrol expelled 14,416 individuals, and apprehended only 1,446 people under its Title 8 authority.  In March, Border Patrol expelled 6,444 individuals and apprehended 23,558 individuals.  The CBP  data on border apprehensions for April also show that only 762 unaccompanied children were encountered compared to 9,715 in April of 2019. Of those, only 58 children were transferred to an ORR shelter. The rest were removed directly from the border.
  • A CBS News article mentioned in the preceding paragraph discusses the expulsion of unaccompanied children through the eyes of the case of a 10 year old boy from Honduras, whose mother sent him across the U.S. border after they were denied protection in MPP proceedings.  The boy was returned to Honduras after four days in U.S. custody, but the mother did not find out about her son's expulsion and return until a week later. 
  • Data released by CIS on the number of credible and reasonable fear case receipts from April 16-30, 2020 continue to confirm the effects of the border closure.  According to CIS, it received 229 credible fear cases from April 16-30, 2020, as compared to more than 4,000 credible fear cases from April 16-30, 2019 and 433 cases from April 1-15, 2020.  There were 244 reasonable fear case receipts from April 16-30, 2020.   The same spreadsheet also shows the number of credible fear decisions and the type of decision (fear established vs. fear not established) for USCIS vs. USCBP since CBP started conducting some interviews, apparently in May of 2019.
  • This article from the New York Times discusses how migration has slowed worldwide during the pandemic.

May 1, 2020

Presidential Executive Order

  •  The American Constitution Society published a helpful analysis of the Proclamation on its website.
  • The Evangelical Immigration Table sent a letter to President Trump opposing the Proclamation, as well as other recent efforts to restrict immigration, including the closing of the border to asylum seekers and unaccompanied children.

Status of Immigration Courts and USCIS offices

  •  EOIR announced yesterday that MPP hearings through June 1, 2020 will be postponed.  Individuals with hearing dates in May must still present themselves at the bridge on their court date to receive a tear sheet with the rescheduled date.  Advocates report that, as recently as this week, CBP was handing out new tear sheets to migrants with rescheduled court dates in the second half of May.  Those individuals will end up presenting at a port of entry again later this month, only to be told their next hearing date has been rescheduled, again.  Current information from EOIR regarding court closures, filing by email at individual courts, and individual standing orders can be found here
  • The USCIS website contains updated information on deadlines for certain requests, notices, and appeals.
  • On April 28, 2020, a federal judge in Washington, DC denied the request for a TRO by AILA, IJC, the NIPNLG, and several detained individuals challenging EOIR’s operation of in-person immigration court hearings and ICE’s conditions of confinement during the COVID-19 pandemic.  That opinion is attached.  The next day, Legal Aid Services NYC filed a lawsuit against EOIR for requiring advocates and respondents to comply with filing deadlines in non-detained cases in the New York City immigration courts during the pandemic.  The lawsuit seeks a court order prohibiting EOIR from enforcing filing deadlines in non-detained New York City Immigration Court cases, or from taking any adverse actions against litigants who don’t meet a deadline.

Access to Legal Information and Services

  • This article from the Indypendent discusses how migrants' access to humanitarian services has been impacted by the pandemic, including at the tent camp in Matamoros.

Detention Issues

  • There are currently 490 individuals who are or were in ICE custody and who have tested positive for COVID-19, including 98 individuals at the Otay Mesa Detention Center.  This article from the Wall Street Journal discusses the situation at Otay Mesa.  According to ICE's website, it has tested 1030 detained individuals for COVID-19. Freedom for Immigrants provides a map on its website that tracks reported COVID-19 cases at detention facilities around the country, as well as reported quarantines, inadequate sanitary conditions and other information. Freedom for Immigrants also produced its second biweekly update on COVID-19 in ICE detention.
  • According to ICE statistics, there were 29,675 individuals in detention as of April 25, 2020, including 5,261 individuals who had established a claim for persecution or torture.  There have been 7,185 book-ins in the month of April.  In other months this fiscal year the number of book ins has ranged between 19,368 and nearly 25,000.
  • Several federal courts issued orders this week requiring the release of vulnerable individuals who remain in ICE custody.  The Rapid Defense Network is tracking litigation around the country here.  A federal judge in Northern California granted provisional class certification and a temporary restraining order requiring ICE to provide information regarding all detained individuals at two facilities so that the court can begin considering requests for release. Judge Dana Sabraw granted a provisional subclass of medically-vulnerable individuals at Otay Mesa Detention Center and found that current conditions at Otay Mesa for subclass members violate the Fifth Amendment because the conditions of their confinement place them at serious risk for substantial illness or death.  Judge Sabraw entered a TRO that requires, among other things, that the government consider members of the subclass for release and report to the court on any individuals considered not appropriate for release.  
  • The government has appealed a federal judge's preliminary injunction ordering, among other things, that the Adelanto detention center not accept any new detainees and reduce its population to such a level so as to allow for proper social distancing.  A group of law professors and medical experts, including Physicians for Human Rights, filed an amicus brief in opposition to the government's motion for a stay pending appeal.
  • Last week, the ACLU issued a report showing why reducing the incarcerated population is key to reducing the spread of COVID-19.  
  • A new paper released on Monday has received a lot of attention because its estimate of the likely spread of COVID-19 in ICE detention facilities and resulting impacts on regional ICU capacity shows an "optimistic scenario" of 72% of detained individuals becoming infected by day 90.  The paper will be published in the Journal of Public Health
  • On April 24th, Judge Gee, the federal judge who oversees the Flores Settlement Agreement, ruled that ORR must work faster to reunify children with their sponsors due to the coronavirus pandemic (including children with MPP removal orders where removal is not imminent). 59 children in ORR care have tested positive for COVID-19. As of last Friday, there were 2,100 children in ORR shelters.
  • The United Nations Network for Migration issued guidance for states on preventing and responding to COVID-19 in the context of immigration detention. The guidance calls on states to stop new detentions, implement non-custodial, community-based alternatives to detention, release detainees into these alternative settings, and improve conditions in detention until alternatives can be implemented.  On Monday, the UN Special Rapporteur on the Human Rights of Migrants urged the U.S. government to use readily-available alternatives to detention for detained migrants, and specifically noted repeated reports of unsanitary conditions and lack of proper healthcare at the Northwest Processing Center in Takoma, Washington.
  • Articles from Buzzfeed and the Dallas Morning News discuss how transfers of individuals between ICE facilities has likely contributed to outbreaks at other detention centers.
  • This interesting article on the website of the Center for Economic and Policy Research tracks ICE Air deportation flights during the pandemic.  Buzzfeed reporter Adolfo Flores also writes about the precarious situation for Guatemalans, who are caught between ICE detention and being quarantined upon return to Guatemala.  The Guatemalan Ministry of Foreign Affairs announced that a "humanitarian" deportation flight would be arriving in Guatemala yesterday with 92 individuals aboard, all of whom tested negative for COVID-19 prior to the flight.  The 92 individuals included three unaccompanied children, 20 members of family units, and 69 men.
  • The ACLU, Human Rights Watch, and NIJC also issued a report this week on immigration detention under the Trump Administration.  The report examines how the immigrant detention system has grown since 2017, the poor conditions and inadequate medical care — even before the COVID-19 outbreak — and the due process hurdles faced by immigrants held in remote locations.  It combines quantitative and qualitative data from visits to five detention centers in Louisiana, Mississippi, and Arizona, interviews with over 150 detained people, public government documents, and documents received through Freedom of Information Act requests.  The report has received a lot of media coverage, including this article from CBS News, which also discusses detention conditions during COVID-19.
  • The AP reported on the deaths of two guards at the Richwood Correctional Center in Louisiana, where 55 individuals in ICE detention have tested positive for the virus.

Effects of Southern Border Closure on Asylum Seekers

  • In this CRS Insight the Congressional Research Service explains the restrictions on travel at U.S. land borders and the implications for migrants without valid documents.
  • On Monday, Refugees International published an issue brief arguing that the border closure order is not justified on public health grounds and illegally targets asylum seekers.
  • This article from Vox discusses the situation of migrants who were metered or subjected to MPP who are now stuck on the Mexican side of the border for longer periods of time due to the border closure.  Another article discusses the challenges for MPP participants who want to request a non-refoulement interview during the border closure.

April 24, 2020

Presidential Executive Order

  •  On Wednesday evening, the President issued a proclamation that suspends for 60 days the entry of any individual seeking to enter the U.S. as an immigrant who does not have a valid immigrant visa as of April 23, or an official travel document valid as of April 23 or issued after that date.  The proclamation does not apply to nonimmigrant visas but requires the Secretaries of Labor and DHS, in consultation with the Secretary of State, to review nonimmigrant programs and recommend other appropriate measures.  The Proclamation exempts certain categories of individuals, including: LPRs, spouses and children of US citizens under age 21, and individuals (and their families) seeking to enter on an immigrant visa as a healthcare professional or other worker essential to the COVID-19 effort.  While the Proclamation does not impact the ability of individuals to apply for asylum, withholding of removal, or relief under the Convention Against Torture, those avenues of relief have been effectively shut off since March 20, as discussed further below.  The Proclamation also is concerning because it is subject to continuation beyond 60 days "as necessary."
  • CNN notes in this article that the Acting DHS Secretary told Fox News in an interview that DHS has been examining measures related to nonimmigrant temporary visas for several months, and would be ready to present recommendations to the President under the Proclamation.
  • This posting on Boundless Immigration provides a good explanation of who is most affected by the Proclamation.

Status of Immigration Courts and USCIS offices: 

  • This week, EOIR announced that hearings in non-detained cases will be postponed through May 15, 2020.  Hearings for detained cases continue to take place.  There has been no update regarding MPP hearings, which are currently still scheduled to resume on May 4, 2020.  Current information from EOIR regarding court closures, filing by email at individual courts, and individual standing orders can be found here
  • USCIS has extended the suspension of in-person services through June 4.  More information is available here.
  • The Harlingen and PIDC courts continue to allow for telephonic appearances.  ICE has not transported individuals at El Valle Detention Facility to appear in person at PIDC court hearings.  It is unclear whether El Valle is using VTC for PIDC court hearings. 
  • According to a Politico article, the union for BIA lawyers and support staff filed a complaint with OSHA about working conditions at EOIR during COVID-19.  The same day, the National Association of Immigration Judges and the same Union issued a press release calling on EOIR to implement workplace safety precautions recommended by OSHA and the CDC, and to provide greater transparency in how it is making critical workplace safety decisions related to COVID-19.  That statement is attached.
  • Law360 published an interesting article about the continuation of dockets for detained migrant children during the epidemic, as did CNN

Detention Issues

  •  There are currently 297 individuals who are or were in ICE custody and who have tested positive for COVID-19, including 42 individuals at the Otay Mesa Detention Center.  According to ICE's website, as of April 19, ICE had administered 407 COVID-19 tests. Freedom for Immigrants provides a map on its website that tracks reported COVID-19 cases at detention facilities around the country, as well as reported quarantines, inadequate sanitary conditions and other information.  
  • According to ICE statistics, there were still more than 30,700 individuals in detention as of April 18, 2020, including more than 5,400 individuals who had established a claim for persecution or torture.  There have been fewer than 5,400 book-ins in the month of April.  In other months this fiscal year the number of book ins has ranged between 19,368 and nearly 25,000.
  • According to a press release, when ICE Acting Director Albence testified before the House Committee on Oversight and Reform last Friday he said that the agency did not intend to release any more medically-vulnerable detainees as it might encourage a rush at the borders.  This article has more information about Albence's testimony and ICE's refusal to release more individuals from detention. As the article notes, ICE may not have a choice in the matter, as a federal judge in the Central District of California issued an order earlier this week in the Fraihat case granting emergency class certification and injunctive relief.  Among other things, the court has ordered that defendants identify and track all ICE detainees with identified risk factors for COVID-19 (which are broader than the risk factors previously identified by ICE), make timely custody determinations for detainees with the risk factors, and issue standards defining minimum acceptable detention standards for detainees with the risk factors, pending individualized determinations.  The team litigating the case has circulated a FAQ about the decision as well as a template request for custody redetermination based on the decision.  These are attached. 
  • Organizations have continued to seek relief in federal court for individuals who remain in ICE custody.  The Rapid Defense Network is tracking litigation around the country here.  New cases include a putative class action in Southern California that seeks the release of medically vulnerable individuals from the Otay Mesa Detention Center and the Imperial Regional Detention Center, as well as the orderly release of a sufficient number of individuals from each facility so as to permit adequate social distancing.  Yesterday, a federal judge in the Central District of California entered a preliminary injunction ordering, among other things, that the Adelanto detention center not accept any new detainees and reduce its population to such a level so as to allow for proper social distancing.  The injunction suggested certain priorities for releases.
  • On Wednesday, members of Congress sent a letter to the Secretary of HHS and the Acting Secretary of DHS urging them to take all reasonable steps to protect children in their custody and expeditiously release children in HHS custody to sponsors.
  • This article from the Miami Herald discusses the transfer of individuals in ICE detention amidst the epidemic as another way that the virus can spread.  ICE has continued to transfer individuals in detention despite the pandemic.
  • This Washington Post article discusses how the US is deporting individuals infected with COVID-19 to countries that are not equipped to handle the crisis.  According to this Reuters article ICE plans to begin testing more individuals for COVID-19 before they are removed, but will only receive 2,300 tests per month.  In the same article, Guatemala's President is quoted as saying that the country will allow a removal flight to arrive today, as an exception to the country's current refusal to accept removal flights, as a humanitarian gesture because of the vulnerable state of those who will be on the flight (including unaccompanied minors).

Effects of Southern Border Closure on Asylum Seekers

  • On Monday, the CDC entered an order officially extending the border closure for at least another 30 days, through May 20.  DHS also issued a notice extending the restrictions on land travel from Mexico into the United States through ports of entry through May 20. DHS also released an updated fact sheet regarding the border closures.  The updated fact sheet makes clear that CBP will not detain unauthorized migrants in its facilities at or near the border but rather will expel them immediately to Mexico or Canada, or return them to their country of origin.  UNHCR criticized the extension of the CDC's order, and issued a statement on Wednesday warning against long-term damage to refugee rights in the midst of the pandemic.
  • Yesterday was the deadline to submit comments on the CDC Interim Final Rule released by the CDC on March 20 that provides a procedure by which the CDC can enter an order like the one extended Monday, temporarily suspending the introduction of certain persons from designated countries or places when required in the interests of public health.  A number of advocacy organizations submitted comments, which can be viewed here.
  • Data released by CIS on the number of credible and reasonable fear case receipts in the first two weeks of April, 2020 confirm the effects of the border closure.  According to CIS, it received approximately 400 credible fear cases from April 1-15, 2020, as compared to nearly 1,600 credible fear cases in the second half of March, 2020, and just over 4,000 credible fear cases from April 1-15, 2019. 
  • The U.S. Immigration and Policy Center released a report this week that uses empirical data to debunk the idea that measures such as closing the Southern border will produce beneficial public health outcomes.  The data from the study show that neither the monthly total number of persons entering the U.S. through southern border ports of entry, the monthly total number of persons requesting asylum, the monthly total number of asylum seekers who establish credible fear, nor the quarterly total number of USCIS approvals across all visa application types have any effect on the monthly percentage of patients who present at healthcare providers with influenza-like illnesses.

April 17, 2020

Status of Immigration Courts and USCIS offices:

  • Today ABA President Judy Perry Martinez followed-up on her March 25, 2020 letter to DHS and EOIR urging additional steps to protect the health and safety of all individuals involved in the immigration adjudication and detention systems.  Specifically, today's letter recommends the suspension of all in-person immigration proceedings, and urges that all detained matters be postponed, except for bond proceedings and individual hearings (where the respondent and counsel, if any, wish to proceed).  The letter also asks DHS to implement a process to consider the release from detention of those individuals who are medically vulnerable or who pose no danger to public safety or national security.  The letter is attached.
  • Hearings for detained cases continue to take place. Current information from EOIR regarding court closures, filing by email at individual courts, and individual standing orders can be found here
  • The Otay Mesa Detention Center continues to have the most confirmed COVID-19 cases among the detained population of any facility with ICE detainees in the country.  On Monday, the Otay Mesa Immigration Court announced its closure and instructed that filings should take place at the San Diego Immigration Court. Additionally, all scheduled master and individual hearings in the next 2-3 weeks were sua sponte continued. 

Detention Issues

  • There are currently 100 individuals who are or were in ICE custody and who have tested positive for COVID-19.  This information is updated daily on ICE's website: https://www.ice.gov/coronavirus.  Freedom for Immigrants provides a map on its website that tracks reported COVID-19 cases at detention facilities around the country, as well as reported quarantines, inadequate sanitary conditions and other information.  Freedom for Immigrants also has started publishing a biweekly analysis on COVID-19 issues in ICE custody.
  • According to ICE statistics, there were still more than 32,300 individuals in detention as of April 11, 2020, including nearly 5,600 individuals who had established a claim for persecution or torture.  On its coronavirus website, ICE notes that it has "released nearly 700 individuals after evaluating their immigration history, criminal record, potential threat to public safety, flight risk, and national security concerns. This same methodology is currently being applied to other potentially vulnerable populations currently in custody and while making custody determinations for all new arrests. Additionally, ERO has limited the intake of new detainees being introduced into the ICE detention system. 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." 
  • On April 10, ICE released a manual addressing requirements for detention centers in dealing with COVID-19.
  • Organizations have continued to seek relief in federal court for particularly vulnerable individuals who remain in ICE custody.  The Rapid Defense Network is tracking litigation around the country here.  New cases include putative class actions in Southern Florida and Central California, and a habeas petition filed in South Texas (with one PIDC detainee as a petitioner).  Yesterday, a federal judge in Central California also refused to dismiss a putative class action lawsuit challenging access to medical care, confinement practices, and disability accommodations in ICE detention facilities.  The case, Fraihat, includes an emergency request for ICE to address the deficiencies in its response to COVID-19.  Some recent filings regarding the emergency request are attached, including a declaration from an ICE official regarding ICE's response.
  • After a conference last week in the Flores case, Judge Gee issued an order saying that, because ICE and ORR's recent data disclosures brought new issues to light, defendants would be given the opportunity to respond before the court rules on plaintiffs' request for a preliminary injunction.  Defendants' response will address issues raised by the court as well as plaintiffs' supplemental declarations about conditions in the FRCs.  The court extended certain aspects of the March 28, 2020 TRO until a April 24, 2020 order to show cause hearing, and ordered that ORR and ICE must make every effort to promptly and safely release class members.  The Court's April 10 order is attached. 
  • In a hearing earlier this week in the O.M.G. lawsuit filed in federal court in Washington, DC seeking the release of all families held in ICE family residential centers, a federal judge declined to order the release of all individuals held in FRCs but did order the filing of an additional notice by the government addressing, among other things: updated statistics on the number of individuals detained and released, compliance with CDC guidelines, their medical capabilities (including testing), treatment plans, coordination with local health care, and PPE supplies.  The court has scheduled another hearing for April 27, 2020.
  • On Monday the President issued a memorandum allowing for visa sanctions against countries that refuse to accept the return of their citizens, nationals, subjects, or residents.  This PRI article discusses the danger that deportation flights from the US will hasten the spread of the virus to other countries. The AP reports today that Guatemala has put another pause on the receipt of deportation flights from the United States over concerns about the number of COVID-19 infections among individuals who arrived on removal flights this week, and that personnel from the CDC are in Guatemala verifying test results of individuals removed to Guatemala.
  • This CBS news article has interviews with several women currently detained in Louisiana.  The Associated Press also has an article containing interviews with individuals in ICE detention.
  • In this article Mother Jones interviews 3 doctors about ICE's response to COVID-19.  
  • AILA and AIC, along with advocacy organizations, sent letters to the governors of ColoradoNew Jersey, and New Mexico calling on them to take any and all steps possible to compel the release of people held in several private detention facilities in their respective states. 
  • A group of evangelical leaders have sent a letter to DHS urging the release of individuals from ICE detention.  This editorial in USA Today also recommends the release of nonviolent individuals from ICE detention.
  • ProPublica reported on the increasing numbers of COVID-19 infections of children in ORR custody.

Effects of Southern Border Closure on Asylum Seekers: 

  • U.S. Customs and Border Protection reports that 3,195 unaccompanied children were apprehended at the southern border in March 2020. CBP is now tracking Title 42 expulsions for "public health" reasons. CBP has confirmed that unaccompanied children are subject to these expulsions, and almost 400 children have been expelled under these new rules.
  • If you haven't yet read Lucas Guttentag's analysis of the border expulsions, circulated earlier this week by Mary Giovagnoli, I highly recommend it.  Today a researcher with Physicians for Human Rights published another article on Just Security questioning the health justifications for the CDC orders.
  • A number of advocacy organizations sent a letter to DHS urging it to halt the expulsion of asylum seekers under the March 20 CDC order.  Another letter from advocacy organizations focuses on the impact of the CDC order on survivors of domestic and sexual violence, and a third focuses on the expulsion of unaccompanied children.  The third letter is attached.
  • NIJC has issued a FAQ document on the CDC order.
  • Human Rights Watch and the National Immigration Project of the National Lawyers Guild filed a formal complaint with DHS CRCL earlier this week and asked it to investigate DHS' policy of expelling asylum seekers at the border.  The Complaint is attached.
  • A number of advocacy organizations sent a letter to DHS and EOIR urging DHS to parole individuals subjected to MPP into the United States due to the COVID-19 pandemic, or, in the alternative, not make individuals subjected to MPP present at ports of entry to receive their re-scheduled hearing dates.

April 10, 2020

Status of Immigration Courts and USCIS offices:

  • On April 3, EOIR issued a policy memo updating its policy on signatures on documents filed with immigration courts and the BIA. As of March 31, 2020, EOIR will accept electronic and digital signatures on all filed documents, including documents filed by mail and in person. EOIR will also accept electronically re-produced copies of documents containing digital, electronic, or wet signatures. The PM does not override specific provisions of law or application instructions that might require a certain form of signature.  
  • EOIR also established temporary email accounts for filing Briefs, Motions to Accept a Late Filed Brief, Motions for Summary Affirmance, and courtesy copies of the EOIR-27 with the BIA in both detained and non-detained cases. More information on filing with the BIA by email can be found here
  • Hearings for detained cases continue to take place. Current information from EOIR regarding court closures, filing by email at individual courts, and individual standing orders can be found here
  • On April 3, 2020, AILA filed a lawsuit against USCIS in federal district court in Washington, DC seeking the immediate suspension of immigration benefit deadlines and the maintenance of status for nonimmigrants in the US amid the COVID-19 pandemic. The complaint can be found here.

Access to Legal Information and Services:

  • In mid-March, EOIR began a pilot project to force all Houston-area detained children to appear by video teleconference (VTC) to an Assistant Chief Immigration Judge in Atlanta, Georgia. The pilot project also aims to fast-track immigration proceedings for detained unaccompanied children. The rocket docket VTC hearings are continuing despite the coronavirus pandemic, requiring that children and attorneys appear in person at the Houston non-detained immigration court while ACIJ Sirce Owen appears by screen from Atlanta. Children are given a short continuance to find an attorney and must respond to the Notice to Appear at the second hearing. Judge Owen requires that children apply for all relief by the following hearing after taking pleadings without taking into account the reunification status of the child. Most children in ORR care are released within 56 days.
  • AILA, the Immigration Justice Campaign, and the National Immigration Project of the National Lawyers Guild, as well as a group of detained noncitizens, moved for a TRO in their lawsuit seeking an order that provides for either remote hearings or the release of detainees, increased safety within detention, and safe and effective access to counsel. The court will hold a hearing on the TRO on April 15.

Detention Issues

  • Other organizations have continued to seek relief in federal court for particularly vulnerable individuals who remain in ICE custody. Cases were filed in Georgia, Houston, and Virginia, among others. While many of these cases have been successful, there were mixed orders issued this week out of cases in Maryland (attached), Pennsylvania (attached), Michigan (attached), Washington (attached), Massachusetts (attached), and California.
  • There are currently 50 individuals who are or were in ICE custody and who have tested positive for COVID-19, including 10 individuals at the Otay Mesa Detention Center. This information is updated daily on ICE's website: https://www.ice.gov/coronavirus.  Freedom for Immigrants provides a map on its website that tracks reported COVID-19 cases at detention facilities around the country, as well as reported quarantines, inadequate sanitary conditions and other information.
  • CLINIC, RAICES, Aldea, and Proyecto Dilley filed a complaint with CRCL earlier this week requesting an investigation into the prolonged detention of children in FRCs, in violation of the Flores settlement and the March 28, 2020 order in the Flores litigation. That complaint is attached.
  • ICE guidance from April 3 and 4 regarding considerations for release of detainees during the COVID-19 pandemic was produced in litigation and is attached. According to Buzzfeed ICE notified Congressional representatives on Tuesday that it had instructed field officers to consider more detainees for release, using guidance from the CDC regarding those individuals who are at greater risk of exposure. Similar statements can be found in the "Detention" section of ICE's online guidance on COVID-19.
  • Amnesty International released a report on COVID-19 in immigration detention centers. 
  • According to ICE statistics, there were just under 34,000 individuals in detention as of April 4, 2020, including more than 5,800 individuals who had established a claim for persecution or torture. 
  • Yesterday it was confirmed that a contract worker at PIDC tested positive for COVID-19 in late March. The contractor did not have contact with detainees.
  • Mexican authorities planned to move the Matamoros MPP tent community today.  People resisted when authorities arrived and INM backed down.  The tent encampment remains in its same location, within a block of the Gateway Intl. Bridge. 
  • Earlier this week 7 staff members at a Houston area ORR shelter were revealed to have tested positive for COVID-19.
  • A Reuters article discusses the rural locations of many detention centers and the impact this could have on rural hospitals if there should be an outbreak of COVID-19 at detention centers requiring hospitalization of large numbers of affected individuals. 
  • This week the Chairwoman of the House Committee on Oversight and Reform sent a letter to Acting Secretary Wolf, Acting Director Albence and Acting Commissioner Morgan requesting information about plans to protect individuals in ICE and CBP custody during the COVID-19 pandemic. 

Effects of Southern Border Closure on Asylum Seekers

  • On March 20, in a series of actions, the government effectively closed the Northern and Southern borders to asylum seekers for a period of at least 30 days due to the COVID-19 pandemic.  First, a notice published by the Department of Homeland Security, Customs & Border Protection (CBP) limits land travel between the United States and Mexico through ports of entry to "essential travel." That notice is in effect through April 20 (there is a similar order that applies to the Canadian border). Also on March 20, the CDC issued an order suspending for 30 days the entry of persons traveling from Mexico or Canada who would otherwise be placed in CBP custody at or near the border. The March 20, 2020 CDC order was authorized in part by an Interim Final Rule released by the CDC on the same date that provides a procedure by which the CDC can enter an order for the temporary suspension of the introduction of certain persons from designated countries or places when required in the interests of public health. The Interim Final Rule went into effect on March 20 and will be in effect until the earlier of one year after the date of publication or when the HHS Secretary determines there is no longer a need for the rule. Last week, ProPublica published an article describing how CBP officers are carrying out the recent orders, based on a leaked CBP memo.  Under the policy, CBP immediately expels individuals who they encounter at or between ports of entry who do not have proper entry documentation, with limited exceptions.  If the individual affirmatively states a reasonably believable fear of torture in her home country the individual is referred to an asylum officer for a screening interview.
  • Yesterday, CBP released enforcement statistics that show the number of border "expulsions" in March 2020 pursuant to the CDC orders, as compared to the number of apprehensions during March.  The statistics show that CBP expelled nearly 6,400 individuals pursuant to the orders in March alone.
  • Earlier this week 10 Democratic Senators sent a letter to Acting Secretary Wolf asking for more information about DHS' implementation of the CDC orders. The letter is attached.
  • Today, Representatives Engel, Thompson, and Nadler issued a statement asking the Administration to explain the legality of the CDC's orders. The statement says that prior requests for the legal justifications for the orders have not resulted in any explanation being offered.
  • The Congressional Research Service released a Legal Sidebar analyzing the legal issues surrounding the CDC orders.
  • Reuters reports that CBP has expelled nearly 400 migrant children under the orders. 
  • More than 60 organizations signed on to a statement denouncing the closure of the border to asylum seekers, and calling for a halting of deportations and the release of individuals from detention during the COVID-19 pandemic. 

Jennie Kneedler

Staff Attorney, Commission on Immigration