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Immigration and Customs Enforcement: human rights, COVID-19, and howwe can help

As officially published by the U.S. Department of Homeland Security, the overall mission of Immigration and Customs Enforcement is to strengthen border security as well as to fight terrorism in the United States. Therefore, the main priorities of ICE, as stated by the agency itself, are security and protection. There are two components making up the ICE agency: the Enforcement and Removal Operations (ERO) as well as the Homeland Security Investigations (HSI). ERO focuses primarily on arresting people residing unlawfully in the United States who pose a threat to public safety in the country. HSI, on the other hand, investigates violent and financial crime, as well as prevents terrorist groups from attacking the United States.

Today, ICE is often criticized for its punitive enforcement unrelated to its overall mission of providing safety in the United States. Some of the common issues include abuse in detention centers, separating families, medical neglect, and mass deportation. The agency tends to violently target undocumented immigrants, regardless if they pose threat to the country or not.

The US has recognized the validity of basic human rights in past international disputes. Why does the U.S. not recognize these same notions within its borders?

Although the United States of America instituted USCIS to strengthen the safety and security of

the nation, the country’s history, as it pertains to immigration is quite interesting. The process of

migration has been a topic that has occurred for centuries. The US is a land that was taken over

and founded as a nation by immigrants. As the United States grew into its role as a world power, it even spoke about immigration issues and rights, as they pertain to other nations. The US has acknowledged that the placement of individuals into encampments is frowned upon. The government has admitted that these actions oftentimes interfere with people’s basic rights. In discussing these issues, the US has openly acknowledged that the basic rights of individuals are an undeniable matter that should be fought for unabidingly. Along with other nations, the US has claimed said violations as means for international intervention.

In spite of this, America has its own history involving the incarceration of groups of individuals within its own borders. Most notably, during the 1940s the US government allowed the internment of Japanese-Americans. The US claims it is validated in detaining groups of individuals who share a common background because they may have the potential to cause domestic security concerns; as have many other countries. Although the reasoning is argued as valid, differing political parties and politicians have continued to argue over this topic. A major factor that opponents have argued against, is the extent to which family division has been taken.

Covid-19 In ICE Detention Centers

Moreover, the COVID-19 Pandemic has swept the world by storm. Unfortunately, for some, especially those in ICE (U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement's) Detention Centers, they have been more prone to infection. Arguably compared to national statistics of infection rates, ICE Detention Centers have higher rates, as seen in a report done in JAMA . Specifically, when looking at 92 of the United State’s 135 ICE Detention Centers from April 2020 to August 2020, the rate of infection was about 13 times higher than the United States population.

To expand, the reasoning for higher rates of infections might have something to do with the lack of resources being provided to those in ICE Detention Centers alongside how close everyone is in proximity. More specifically, when looking at the ICE Detention Center in Farmville, Virginia, there was a report that found that due to the failure to keep up with safety protocols, there was an outbreak. In the report, they stated this outbreak had over 250 out of 300 detainees test positive for COVID-19; unfortunately with one of those soon dying due to the virus.

Moreover, when looking directly at when people in ICE Detention Centers contract the virus, they often need to battle the sickness alone as they face not being able to be with family. Unfortunately, the despair of being in these detention centers is only magnified as there are rarely options available to leave the center.

Additionally, given the lack of testing, the monthly cases are possibly underestimated which paints an incomplete picture of COVID-19 inside these detention centers. With this, it makes sense that it is difficult to provide consistent COVID-19 data which makes it nearly impossible to track the virus’s spread to the community. Although there was a House hearing done in July of 2020 in which Kathleen Rice, the Representative of New York, in which she called for chief executives of 4 ICE private contractors to give data of ICE employee infections, nothing has been done to do so. Regrettably, the failure to appropriately monitor patients who have COVID 19 leads to disparate outcomes for those in these facilities as well as communities surrounding these detention centers.


At Mil Mujeres, we want to become part of the solution. We help undocummented immigrants by offering affordable legal services to low-income individuals in the Latino community, especially those who are survivors of violent crimes. Our organization helps people apply for U-visa, an immigration benefit for victims of physical and mental abuse, T-visa, giving immigration relief to victims of human trafficking, VAWA, allowing immigrant victims of domestic violence to apply for immigration relief, as well as for a Green Card and US citizenship. Reach out to us today! Do not feel discouraged by the application process, we are here to help you along the way.

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