The Dark Side of ICE: A Cry for Help in Immigration Detention Units; How Are Legal Bodies Helping Here?

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Amidst the world already revolving around the fears and deaths posed by the novel coronavirus, the U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) has apparently decided to make the lives of detainees a lot more arduous (if it already wasn’t).

A Peep into the Lives of Immigration Detainees

In a webbed network of jails and detention centres handled by ICE, over 14 states across the country, so far 80 confirmed cases of COVID-19 have been registered, comprising the detainees as well as employees.

The agency holds more than 33,000 immigrants, with coronavirus cases surging, every passing day. The conditions described by these detainees and immigrant advocates, highlight health threats and an increasing sense of panic, which if not attended soon, shall create a major problem.

Prisons, jails and detention centres are widely known to be major vectors of infectious diseases, that’s a fact. Detainees from such centres have come forward and informed of the unfavourable conditions they have been living in, scared of contracting the virus.

In fact, as of last week, Cook County Jail in Illinois was known to be the nation’s largest known source of coronavirus infection.

One such detainee from the Eloy Detention Center informed that having pre-existing medical conditions, she is highly vulnerable to coronavirus, along with hypertension, hyperthyroidism, heart disease and diabetes. 

She informed that they are being deprived of proper hygiene items. For instance, at her detention facility, they aren’t provided with bars of soaps.

Instead, they are given a 2-ounce bottle of shampoo every once a week for all their chores. If they run out, they must wait until the following week for another bottle.

Neither are their cells properly cleansed using disinfectants nor are they provided with essentials, like masks or gloves.

She stated that despite detainees’ constant attempts to practice social distancing in common areas, it is practically impossible for them to maintain a distance of at least 6 feet from each other, leading them to sit packed in dining rooms.

What Do Immigration Advocates & Law Firms Have to Say About this?

The men held by ICE, described the facilities to be fundamentally unprepared and seemingly unwilling to protect those in their custody.

Karim Golding, a detainee in the Etowah County Detention Center in downtown Gadsden stated that inadequate medical care and failures to provide proper hygiene conditions amidst the prevailing situation have depicted a striking sense of abandonment in the attitude of the immigrant detention system.

Needless to say, ICE’s propensity for denying parole to detainees, especially under the Trump government, is well known.

Several legal organizations and advocates have been constantly filing lawsuits across the country, against ICE, some of which have resulted in judges ordering the release of dozens of detainees from California to Massachusetts to New Jersey.

These legal bodies and advocates have been pushing ICE and have demanded for sweeping releases of more immigrants with vulnerable and underlying medical conditions.

In fact, on Friday the advocates took it on themselves to stage a vivid protest against the federal immigration authorities to release the detainees, outside 2 detention centres in Eloy, Arizona.

Federal Judge Rules Good News for Detainees

A U.S. District Judge Jesus G. Bernal ruled the ICE officials to allow confidential telephone calls between detainees and their attorneys at the Adelanto ICE Processing Centre, on Saturday.

This 15-page ruling comes after a restraining order charged by the ACLU against the agency late last month. It was reported that the officials in the agency made it almost impractical for detainees to converge with their respective attorneys in private, at the said facility.

The attorneys had argued that not only were their conversations non-confidential but also excessively expensive.

Bernal ruled that such calls should be free of charge, while the lines must be unrecorded and unmonitored.

No doubt, this order shall bolster the immigrants’ right to speak with their lawyers, to fight against deportation and regain their freedom.