In the midst of the coronavirus pandemic and the extraordinary measures our federal, state, and local governments have enacted to combat it, what has become abudantly clear is that detention centers in the US are especially vulnerable to infectious disease - and children & families being held in detention centers are at particularly high risk of getting and transmitting coronavirus. As mounting data from these facilities reveals the precarious health risks those housed in them are facing, releasing them from detention sooner than later helps mitigate that risk and prevent more widespread infections. So far, more than 70 individuals housed in ICE detention centers have tested positive for COVID-19, and that number is expected to increase.
The Federal Immigrant Release for Safety and Security Together (FIRST) Act would require ICE to release detained immigrants who don’t pose any public safety risk and force every detention center to provide immigrants with access to soap and other hygiene products, as well as free phone calls and videoconferencing to their family and their lawyers.
The incarceration of these individuals during normal times is a perpetual reminder of a broader moral crisis; but in the heat of a worldwide battle against a deadly, viral pandemic, it is now just as much a public health crisis.
Email your members of Congress today. Tell them that Congress must pass the FIRST Act now!
On April 13, Sen. Cory Booker of New Jersey and Rep. Pramila Jayapal of California introduced the Federal Immigrant Release for Safety and Security Together (FIRST) Act that would require ICE to release detained immigrants who don’t pose any public safety risk, namely, those older than 50 or younger than 21, and anyone with a health condition that may make them more vulnerable to contracting coronavirus - a key demand of public health officials and advocates.
The FIRST Act would also require all detention centers to provide immigrants with basic access to soap and other hygiene products, as well as free phone & video calls to their families and legal representation. Finally, it would suspend interior civil immigration enforcement by ICE during the course of the COVID-19 pandemic, except in certain limited circumstances, and specifically prohibits enforcement in sensitive locations, including medical facilities and other places that offer vital assistance.
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