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Judge Orders COVID-19 Tests at California Detention Center

The Associated Press reports that a federal judge, on Thursday, ordered ICE to test everyone held at a California immigration detention center for the coronavirus. Noting that the authorities had shown “deliberate indifference to the risk of an outbreak,” the judge said that ICE had “lost the right to be trusted” on its willingness to take safety measures at the Mesa Verde Detention Center in Bakersfield. In emails to the contractor, GEO Group, ICE officials noted that the agency wanted to avoid universal testing because it did not have room to quarantine all those who might test positive.

A Canadian immigrant died of COVID-19 in ICE custody this week.

On Wednesday, a 72-year-old Canadian immigrant held in a privately run detention center passed away from COVID-19 complications. James Hill, a doctor, was being deported after serving a 12-year sentence for writing opioid prescriptions without seeing patients. After being held in detention for three months, his flight to Canada was scheduled, but he was hospitalized for COVID-19 before he could make the flight. He was hospitalized for nearly a month before he passed away this Wednesday, August 5. Mr. Hill had told his family that while in ICE detention he was forced to sleep in a crowded dorm with 80 men. This follows from other complaints that both publicly and privately-run ICE detention centers have not followed CDC recommendations on how to handle COVID-19. Hill’s family said that he had served his sentence and did not deserve to die due to ICE’s “negligence.” The Farmville center currently has 290 confirmed COVID-19 cases

6 more Guatemalans have tested positive for COVID-19 after deportation from the U.S.

At least 6 Guatemalans deported from the U.S. on June 9 tested positive for COVID-19 after arrival. That flight was the first flight of deportees from the U.S. after a month-long suspension imposed by Guatemala. This information came from a Guatemalan public official who spoke on condition of anonymity.

A second person in ICE custody has died of COVID-19.

On Sunday, a 34-year-old man named Santiago Baten-Oxlag, who was in ICE custody, passed away from COVID-19 complications. Before being admitted to a hospital in Columbus, Georgia, he was detained at the Stewart Detention Center, a privately-run prison. Advocates have criticized ICE for continuing to detain many immigrants who are at a higher risk for COVID-19, and for allegedly not adhering to CDC recommendations for infection prevention.

The Trump administration is expected to broaden foreign worker bans.

The Trump administration has been looking into expanded foreign worker bans ostensibly in response to the COVID-19 pandemic. The expected change would expand an existing executive order to include more categories of barred foreign workers. The Trump administration is also considering limiting the number of people who come to the U.S on cultural exchanges, such as with summer camps and resorts. It is also looking into lowering the number of visas for specialty occupations and certain categories of seasonal workers. In response to this possibility, some Republican senators have urged President Trump not to restrict visas for seasonal workers because of their importance in many industries. Any new or existing executive orders related to immigration are expected to be extended on a 30 or 60-day basis.

Senators Send Letter Urging DHS to Halt Detention Transfers and Expand Coronavirus Testing

NBC News recently reported that in the past several months, ICE has shuffled hundreds of people in its custody around the country, leading to COVID-19 outbreaks in facilities in four states. A group of senators sent a letter urging DHS to take immediate steps to halt the transfer of individuals in ICE custody between detention facilities and to expand COVID-19 testing at all ICE facilities. AILA endorsed the letter. Yesterday, the Senate’s Committee on the Judiciary held a hearing on incarceration and detention during COVID-19, during which Dr. Scott Allen, a medical subject-matter expert in detention health for the DHS Office of Civil Rights and Civil Liberties, gave testimony in his individual capacity to warn of the high potential for COVID-19 to spread through detention centers.

Justice Department Watchdog Reviewing Decision to Keep Immigration Courts Open During Pandemic

CNN reports that the DOJ’s Office of the Inspector General is reviewing the Trump administration’s decision to keep the nation’s immigration courts open while COVID-19 swept through the United States. EOIR came under criticism from immigration judges, attorneys, and ICE prosecutors for proceeding with immigration hearings despite social distancing guidelines and shelter-in-place orders

Deportations from the U.S. are driving up COVID-19 cases in Guatemala.

According to Guatemala’s health minister, flights arriving with deportees from the U.S. have increased the amount of confirmed cases of COVID-19. In one flight, 50-75% of deportees tested positive for the coronavirus. Additionally, the U.S. has allegedly been noncompliant with a request to have only 25 passengers per plane. As a result, Guatemala has expanded COVID-19 testing of those deportee arrivals.

Judge Orders ICE to Consider Releasing All Immigrants at Risk of Dying if Infected by Coronavirus

CBS News reports that yesterday, a federal judge in California ordered ICE to actively and rapidly review the cases of all detained immigrants at increased risk of severe illness or death if they contract the coronavirus and determine whether they should be released. Coronavirus cases among the more than 31,000 immigrants held by ICE surged to 220 on Monday, with the agency reporting 96 new cases across the country. Join the Immigration Justice Campaign in calling on Congress to demand that ICE take steps to stem the spread of COVID-19 in detention facilities.

NAIJ Submits Motion to File Amicus Brief in Lawsuit Against ICE and EOIR for Handling of Immigration Cases During COVID-19 Crisis

The National Association of Immigration Judges (NAIJ) submitted a motion to file an amicus brief in NIPNLG, et. al. v. EOIR, et. al., a case filed by AILA, the Immigration Justice Campaign, the National Immigration Project of the National Lawyers Guild (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. Law360 reports that, according to the NAIJ, more than half of the immigration courts nationwide have so far reported contact with confirmed COVID-19 patients or contact with individuals experiencing COVID-19 symptoms. Plaintiffs also submitted a supplemental brief in support of their emergency motion for a temporary restraining order in the case.

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