As the status of the COVID-19 pandemic continues to shift, many people across the United States are experiencing drastic changes in their day-to-day life. For the Harvard Law School community this has meant that all students are no longer on campus for the remainder of the semester and HLS staff has transitioned to remote work in order to adhere with the advice of medical professionals, such as the Center for Disease Control and Prevention. However, despite the unprecedented health risks we are facing, much of the immigration enforcement system continues to operate as usual. We at the Harvard Immigration and Refugee Clinical Program find this deeply disturbing and therefore call on Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) and the authorities at local jails contracted by ICE to release all immigrants currently in ICE detention and halt all further immigration enforcement activity.
In their recently released guidance, ICE outlined how their organization is responding to the COVID-19 crisis; however, their policies remain insufficient in response to this global pandemic. Despite experts’ advice to self-isolate, immigrants across the U.S. will remain in detention. Considering the existing concerns about the safety and conditions in detention centers, continued detainment of individuals is reckless and cruel. If COVID-19 reaches a detention center, its effects will surely be devastating. Furthermore, in their guidance, ICE states that they will “continue daily enforcement operations.” At a time when anxiety is already high, adding additional fear within the immigrant community is simply unnecessary.
Now is a time to focus on the health and well-being of the nation, which means allowing individuals and families to live without fear of arrest or detainment. We hope that ICE and local authorities will listen to the concerns of their community members and cease all enforcement activities during these uncertain times.