As the number of coronavirus cases continues to increase, especially in New York and Washington state, officials are instructing people not to travel and to stay indoors. Despite these restrictions, U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) is still transporting undocumented children to various detention centers, including in areas where there are coronavirus outbreaks.
On Friday, Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez informed people via her Twitter account that ICE was bringing children to New York City on a commercial plane even though other government agencies are being told not to domestically right now.
“Last night on a tip-off call I headed to LaGuardia airport & intercepted @ICEgov transporting several children to NYC, an outbreak hub, via commercial air,” Rep. Ocasio-Cortez tweeted. “If the Pentagon has halted all domestic travel for military, why is ICE transporting unaccompanied children in a pandemic?”
According to the New Sanctuary Coalition, ICE transported six minors from Dallas to New York City. The organization, along with Rep. Ocasio-Cortez met the children and the ICE official at La Guardia to greet them and to “let them know they aren’t alone.” They also said they would be working on freeing the detained minors.
The coronavirus outbreak has closed schools, businesses, and has forced many to remain at home. With so many precautions underway, several organizations allege that ICE is handling undocumented people as if it was business as usual.
NSC learned ICE was transporting 6 minors from Dallas to NY during #COVIDー19 We went to the airport to witness their arrival, welcome them, & let them know they aren’t alone. We’re grateful @AOC responded right away as well! We’ll be fighting to get them freed from ICE custody. pic.twitter.com/Mv2ay3kbyC
— New Sanctuary Coalition (@NewSanctuaryNYC) March 15, 2020
The Bronx Defenders claim that ICE detention centers are not providing people with necessary disinfectants, hand sanitizers, or even toilet paper. “This is a public health emergency that ICE has proven unequipped to handle. We’re demanding the immediate release of ppl currently detained by ICE in NYC-area jails,” The Bronx Defenders tweeted.
Images over the weekend showed airports packed with travelers, waiting in lines for hours, as many were trying to get home as more travel restrictions were announced.
RAICES, an immigration organization, said that ICE is forcing detained people, including sick children, to travel even though they know they are putting their lives and the lives of others in danger to transport them to other detention centers.
“Today we sent a letter to ICE ERO San Antonio Field Office Director, Daniel Bible, demanding that he use his powers to release immigrants in detention who are at great risk during normal times, let-alone during a pandemic,” RAICES tweeted.
The New York Times is reporting some immigration hearings have been postponed because of the coronavirus outbreak. Immigration lawyers and advocates are urging other courts to follow suit and close as well, and for ICE to halt all raids.