How Immigration Issues are Affected by COVID-19: Students, Detainees, and Travel Ban
While the entire world is feeling the effect of the novel Coronavirus (COVID-19), individuals who are affected by immigration may have particularly pressing questions as to whether their cases will continue to be adjudicated, detentions will be made, foreign students will be able to remain on a student visa, and the effects of the travel ban on their plans. As changes to this situation are made hourly, please refer to the links in this blog for the latest information.
To find out more information about countries outside of the United States, such as number of cases reported, quarantine measures, and travel restrictions, please visit the Department of States’ website for COVID-19 country-specific regulations. Travel advisories can be found here. Advisories range from Level 1 (normal precautions), to Level 4- do not travel.
Below are the latest Q&A, quoted directly from the Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) Agency “ICE Guidance on COVID-19”, published March16, 2020:
1. Is ICE considering halting enforcement efforts due to COVID-19?
Law enforcement agencies across the country, to include ICE, are paying close attention to this pandemic. While our law enforcement officers and agents continue daily enforcement operations to make criminal and civil arrests, prioritizing individuals who threaten our national security and public safety, we remain committed to the health and safety of our employees and the general public. It is important for the public to know that ICE does not conduct operations at medical facilities, except under extraordinary circumstances. ICE policy directs our officers to avoid making arrests at sensitive locations – to include schools, places of worship, and health care facilities, such as hospitals, doctors’ offices, accredited health clinics, and emergent or urgent care facilities – without prior approval for an exemption, or in exigent circumstances.
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2. Is ICE making arrests at hospitals?
ICE does not conduct enforcement operations at medical facilities, except under extraordinary circumstances. Claims to the contrary are false and create unnecessary fear within communities. Individuals should continue to seek medical care.
3. I have a scheduled check-in with my immigration officer, should I go if I’m sick?
If an individual with a scheduled check-in is sick, they should contact the local ICE field office prior to their scheduled appointment for further guidance.
4. How does ICE screen new detainees for COVID-19?
ICE instituted screening guidance for new detainees who arrive at facilities to identify those who meet CDC’s criteria for epidemiologic risk of exposure to COVID-19. IHSC isolates detainees with fever and/or respiratory symptoms who meet these criteria and observe them for a specified time period. IHSC staff consult with the local health department, as appropriate, to assess the need for testing. Detainees without fever or respiratory symptoms who meet epidemiologic risk criteria are monitored for 14 days.
5. Can detainees attend medical appointments?
Asymptomatic detainees in isolation can attend all appointments. Symptomatic detainees in isolation must wear a tight-fitting surgical mask to attend essential medical appointments. ICE also notifies the medical provider about the detainee’s status ahead of the appointment to coordinate care and protect staff and other patients.
6. How does ICE mitigate the spread of COVID-19 within its detention facilities?
Detainees who meet CDC criteria for epidemiologic risk of exposure to COVID-19 are housed separately from the general population. ICE places detainees with fever and/or respiratory symptoms in a single medical housing room, or in a medical airborne infection isolation room specifically designed to contain biological agents, such as COVID-19. This prevents the spread of the agent to other individuals and the general public. ICE transports individuals with moderate to severe symptoms, or those who require higher levels of care or monitoring, to appropriate hospitals with expertise in high risk care. Detainees who do not have fever or symptoms, but meet CDC criteria for epidemiologic risk, are housed separately in a single cell, or as a group, depending on available space. ICE reviews CDC guidance daily and continues to update protocols to remain consistent with CDC guidance
7. Will someone who presents symptoms or tests positive for COVID-19 be released from immigration custody?
ICE only has authority to detain individuals for immigration purposes. ICE cannot hold any detainee ordered released by a judge. If ICE must release an ill or isolated detainee, health staff immediately notify the local public health agencies to coordinate further monitoring, if required.
8. My family member or friend is currently in ICE custody, will visitation to the facility still be allowed?
ICE, like other law enforcement agencies with a detained population, is taking important steps to further safeguard those in our care and as a precautionary measure, ICE has temporarily suspended social visitation in all of its detention facilities. ICE will continue to collaborate with the CDC, IHSC, and its network of care providers to provide updates and revise procedures as necessary.
9. How will family member communicate with their family members?
ICE recognizes the substantial impact of temporarily curtailing personal visitation, but the agency has determined it necessary in order to maintain the safety and security of the facility, the detainees and those work at the facility. ICE will take steps to facilitate such communication with families, in the absence of visitation, through extended access to telephones and other reasonable means. ICE will continue to collaborate with the CDC, IHSC, and its network of care providers to provide updates and revise procedures as necessary.
10. Does ICE medically screen detainees before they board a removal flight to their home country?
The ICE Air flight medical provider conducts a visual screening consistent with current ICE policy and procedures on those detainees lacking medical summary information (new apprehensions) who are delivered to the aircraft. Those detainees who are not “new apprehensions” are brought to the aircraft with medical clearance. Any ICE detainee who fails to pass screening by a flight medical provider and/or is suspected of having a health-risk condition potentially contagious to other detainees, staff and/or third parties, will be denied boarding and referred to an ICE approved facility for screening.
In addition to recently issued IHSC guidance, for ICE Air charter removals, there will be a temperature screening at the flight line, prior to boarding. In accordance with IHSC guidance, any detainee who fails to pass screening by a flight medical provider and/or is suspected of having a health-risk condition potentially contagious to other detainees, staff and/or third parties, will be denied boarding and referred to an ICE approved facility for screening.
In addition to recently issued IHSC guidance, for ICE Air charter removals, there will be a temperature screening at the flight line, prior to boarding. In accordance with IHSC guidance, any detainee with a temperature of 100.4 degrees or higher will be immediately referred to a medical provider for further evaluation and observation.