U.S. Pandemic-forces reacts to Asylum-seekers

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U.S. Pandemic-forces reacts to Asylum-seekers
U.S. Pandemic-forces reacts to Asylum-seekers

U.S. Pandemic-forces reacts to Asylum-seekers

In early June, asylum seeker Jose Munoz decided it had been time to escape for his life – by getting deported from a Texas immigration prison where coronavirus was sweeping via the population and traveling home to El Salvador.

Sandra Videla, whose Guatemalan husband Timoteo Vicente-Chun is detained at the Northwest ICE Processing Center, poses outside the power in Tacoma, Washington, U.S.

As the number of COVID-19 cases rose within the Houston Contract Detention Facility – it’s had a minimum of 105, consistent with U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) data – Munoz said he had few ways to guard himself from exposure apart from a cloth mask . On June 1, there have been 375 detainees housed within the facility, according ICE data.

U.S. Pandemic-forces reacts to Asylum-seekers

However, at 19 he might probably not be in danger from complications that may arise from respiratory disease that emerged as a result of the novel coronavirus, Munoz worried his high cholesterol, a comorbidity found in some patients who died, made him vulnerable.

Months earlier, the Salvadoran student had sought asylum within the us after he says he was attacked for refusing to move drugs for a gang, which he declined to name, citing concerns for his safety. His lawyer and an affidavit signed by Munoz and reviewed by Reuters were according to his account. But by June, he feared his life was hanging within the balance, knowing that subsequent ruling in his asylum case would be months away if he chose to keep fighting.

“I felt love it was more dangerous than back in my country,” he said during a interview last month from El Salvador.

U.S. Pandemic-forces reacts to Asylum-seekers

Speaking to about 30 lawyers, immigration advocates, detainees and their relations by Reuters, we discovered that the risks of contracting COVID-19 inside detention facilities have driven people to hunt deportation.

Fifteen immigration lawyers and advocates, who together say they need received many requests from detainees seeking to go away facilities in eight U.S. states for health reasons, told Reuters they’re seeing increases within the number of individuals considering abandoning their cases. Reuters found 12 cases of detainees who stopped fighting their cases and instead agreed to deportation or voluntary departure thanks to the pandemic.

An ICE spokeswoman told Reuters the agency respects migrants’ rights to form decisions regarding whether to pursue or forego their cases.

U.S. Pandemic-forces reacts to Asylum-seekers

Reuters couldn’t determine if the entire number of individuals voluntarily seeking deportation is on the increase .

A U.S. immigration judge, Samuel Cole who spoke to Reuters as communications director for the National Association of Immigration Judges, said he saw a rise in migrants seeking to go away detention within the early months of the pandemic – albeit it meant abandoning their cases.

“There were definitely respondents who expressed fear of getting sick in detention and wanted to urge out as fear of COVID was sweeping the country,” Cole said.

U.S. Pandemic-forces reacts to Asylum-seekers

ACCESS TO MASKS, HAND SANITIZER
U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement has called back detainment and released some immigrants on parole, but has come under attack for shifting detainees between facilities during the pandemic, which ICE has said is a component of its effort to stem the spread of the virus and to market social distancing. The agency has also been criticized for deporting quite 100 infected people to their home countries.

ICE data proves about 2,742 people in ICE detention centers, and 45 ICE employees, have been diagnosed of COVID-19. Two migrants with the disease have died. Thousands of others who might be more vulnerable if they get infected remain in custody, consistent with ICE data included during a Midsummer Day court filing as a part of a class-action lawsuit over medical aid in ICE facilities.

U.S. Pandemic-forces reacts to Asylum-seekers

The ICE spokeswoman reported that the agency investigates a person’s details, potential threat to public safety and flight risk, also as any national security concerns, when evaluating whether to grant discretionary release.

One migrant interviewed for this story tested positive for COVID-19 while in detention at the Otero County Processing Center in New Mexico, consistent with ICE. A second migrant tested positive on May 14, consistent with El Rio Health in Arizona, an equivalent day U.S. documents show he was released from ICE custody.

Many of the 14 current and former detainees interviewed by Reuters said they didn’t have access to hygiene products like hand soap and disinfectants. Six detainees explained how they were exposed to other detainees who were feeling feverish, have persistent coughs, or body aches, which were suspected to be symptoms of the virus.

U.S. Pandemic-forces reacts to Asylum-seekers

One present detainee said those that complained about their health concerns were given punishment with solitary, a claim echoed by lawyers and advocates working in detention centers in four different states.

“ICE fully respects the rights of detainees to voice their concerns without interference and doesn’t retaliate in any way,” the ICE spokeswoman told Reuters.

U.S. Pandemic-forces reacts to Asylum-seekers
U.S. Pandemic-forces reacts to Asylum-seekers

A second ICE spokeswoman said soap was made available by the agency in washing areas and sanitizer throughout the centers “whenever possible,” adding that ICE had taken steps to mitigate the spread of COVID-19 and to “protect the overall health of detainees and staff at our detention facilities.”

U.S. Pandemic-forces reacts to Asylum-seekers

Several lawyers told Reuters they see the agency’s handling of the pandemic inside its detention centers as a part of the U.S. government’s broader effort to limit immigration.

“I’ve come to think it’s a technique to urge people to say: ‘I’m scared to death, I can’t stand it anymore, just deport me,’” said Margo Cowan, supervisor at the Pima County Public Defender’s Office in Arizona, who has practiced immigration law for quite three decades.

The first ICE spokeswoman told Reuters the agency fully respects immigrants’ rights to due process of law.

U.S. Pandemic-forces reacts to Asylum-seekers

“Any alien who features a claim to relief, protection under the law, or basis to stay within the us is allowed to stay within the U.S. legally,” she said.

A DHS internal watchdog report based on a survey of 188 ICE detention centers shows that about 90% of ICE detention centers said they had enough masks and liquid soap for detainees. More than a third reported not having enough hand sanitizer for detainees. Twelve percent of facilities said they did not have the capacity to isolate or quarantine a detainee who tested positive for COVID-19. Numerous facilities said social distancing posed an issue given space limitations.

U.S. Pandemic-forces reacts to Asylum-seekers

‘JUST SIGN’
Patricia Jimenez, a Mexican asylum seeker who said she fled to the United States after being kidnapped by unknown gunmen, decided to drop her case and seek deportation as the coronavirus swept through the Eloy Federal Contract Facility in Arizona, which has reported 222 COVID-19 cases, the second-largest outbreak in an ICE detention center. Her reports was confirmed by her attorney and her aunt.

“I’m really scared that I might get sick and never see my son again,” she told Reuters in a call in late June from the center, where she’s awaiting deportation.

“But at this moment, I’m more afraid of being here,” she said, citing the death of a guard who she says she had contact with in the facility’s kitchen, where she had worked. CoreCivic, the company that operates the center, said the death was from “potential COVID-19-related issues.”

U.S. Pandemic-forces reacts to Asylum-seekers

In a press release, a representative of CoreCivic account that the firm is dedicated to the safety of its detainees and employees, adding that Jimenez’s assertions “is not in anyway related to the affirmative, strict measures to fight the spread of COVID-19 in our facility has been put in place for months.”

U.S. Pandemic-forces reacts to Asylum-seekers

A Mexican asylum seeker, Lucas Castrowith diabetes, which makes people susceptible to complications from the virus, said he also demanded for deportation for being afraid of his life being exposed more in detention than back home,saying that last year, he was brutally beaten by a drug cartel. His reports was confirmed by his wife and the transcript of his “credible-fear” interview, which is part of the asylum process and was reviewed by Reuters.

About eight migrants, including Castro, reported to Reuters that officials attempted to take advantage of detainees’ health issues to manipulate them into accepting deportation.

Castro was held at Arizona’s La Palma Correctional Facility, he ascertained that detainees frequently demanded for information regarding the pandemic and whether they could be granted humanitarian parole or other forms of release.

U.S. Pandemic-forces reacts to Asylum-seekers

“Instead, a deportation officer always arrived and told us that if we were genuinely afraid then we should just sign for our deportation,” Castro said. Two other former detainees in the same facility echoed Castro’s account. Castro said his fear of the virus prompted him to ask a judge for deportation, which U.S. records show was ordered in late May.

The second ICE spokeswoman said the agency does not have a policy of encouraging detainees who raise health concerns related to COVID-19 to sign for deportation. She added that La Palma Correctional Facility does not have a record of a complaint lodged by Castro regarding the alleged staff comments.

Pandemic-related logjams surrounding the immigration platform have also delayed the deportation of some migrants.

U.S. Pandemic-forces reacts to Asylum-seekers

Timoteo Vicente, Guatemalan asylum-seeker said he chose not to request for hearing on a negative ruling in his case in March in part because he deemed the medical care inside the Tacoma ICE Processing Center in Washington State inadequate, leading him to worry about its ability to respond to the pandemic.

In a statement, a representative for GEO Group, the company that contracts with ICE to run the facility, said: “We take our responsibility to ensure the health and protection of everyone in our care and our employees is our topmost priority.”

U.S. Pandemic-forces reacts to Asylum-seekers

Three months later, Vicente is still stranded in detention, awaiting his deportation.

“I found myself in an abyss,” Vicente reported to  Reuters in a call from the detention center. “I don’t know what’s going to happen.”

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