(El Paso, TX)–Today, Congresswoman Veronica Escobar (TX-16) and Congresswoman Frederica Wilson (FL-24) introduced the Immigration Enforcement Moratorium Act to halt the Trump administration’s harmful immigration enforcement activities during the COVID-19 pandemic.
Despite an unprecedented and ongoing health crisis, the administration has continued reckless enforcement practices that endanger public health. Arrests and apprehensions are discouraging immigrants from accessing support services and care and further crowd immigration detention centers. Continued deportations risk spreading COVID-19 to countries with under-resourced health systems. Although Haiti, a country of 11 million people, has only 124 ICU beds and the capacity to ventilate 62 patients, it has received 10 deportation flights since early February. Deportees have already tested positive for COVID-19 in Guatemala, Jamaica, Mexico, Colombia, and Haiti, and in late April, people deported to Guatemala made up 20 percent of that country’s COVID-19 cases.
The Trump administration also has limited migrants’ ability to claim asylum. A Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) order has allowed for tens of thousands of unlawful expulsions in under three months. Since the beginning of June, only four people have been allowed to seek refuge in the United States.
Specifically, the Immigration Enforcement Moratorium Act would:
- Halt deportations of noncitizens during the coronavirus pandemic and provide for release on orders of supervision for people who have received removal orders to prevent prolonged post-removal-order detention;
- Halt arrests and apprehensions of noncitizens physically present in the United State during the coronavirus pandemic;
- Halt in-person check-ins, service of Notices to Appear, and referrals for 1325/26 prosecutions;
- Provide for processing and parole of individuals at the border who make claims for relief under immigration laws;
- Suspend all in-person court proceedings and for detained individuals, establish a procedure to conduct custody determinations and provide telephonic hearings if the respondent requests such a hearing in writing; and
- Prohibit the use of federal funds to implement the CDC order powering automatic expulsions of asylum-seekers and unaccompanied children at the border.
“The Trump administration is using the coronavirus economic and health crisis to further advance its anti-immigrant agenda by detaining, deporting, and expelling immigrants, including vulnerable children, during a global pandemic,” said Congresswoman Escobar. “These practices spread fear in El Paso and communities across the country and hurt the United States’ ability to combat COVID-19. The Immigration Enforcement Moratorium Act would halt harmful immigration enforcement actions, slow the spread of this virus, and uphold American values.”
“The Trump administration has a miserable track record when it comes to prioritizing the health and well-being of migrants. Therefore, it is disturbing, but not surprising, that they have recklessly continued enforcement activities such as deportations in the midst of a global pandemic,” said Congresswoman Wilson. “The Immigration Enforcement Moratorium Act would prioritize public health, including the health of enforcement officials, immigrants, and the residents of countries of origin for the remainder of this crisis.”
"The Trump administration has used a global pandemic to shut the border to asylum seekers, returning them to danger in their home countries. Through these expulsions and deportations, the United States is exacerbating the spread of COVID-19 and exporting the virus to countries with fragile health systems. The Latin America Working Group welcomes the Immigration Enforcement Moratorium Act and its call to temporarily halt immigration enforcement throughout the public health emergency, including stopping deportations, apprehensions, and unlawful expulsions from the border," said Daniella Burgi-Palomino, co-director of the Latin America Working Group.
“The Trump administration has recklessly continued to pursue immigration arrests, detentions, and deportations despite clear public health risks while citing specious public health justifications to expel asylum-seekers and unaccompanied children in clear violation of U.S. legal obligations. We welcome the Immigration Enforcement Moratorium Act, which aims to protect human rights and preserves public health,” said Charanya Krishnaswami, Americas advocacy director at Amnesty International USA.
A fact sheet for the legislation can be found here, and section-by-section, here.
The Immigration Enforcement Moratorium Act is supported by nearly 70 national, state, and local organizations.