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American Gateways renews its call to release vulnerable immigrants during the COVID 19 pandemic.

AUSTIN—“We are seeing the health of our communities put at risk as ICE continues to detain vulnerable immigrants,” says Rebecca Lightsey, American Gateways’ Executive Director. “We are continuing to ask the government to release highly at-risk detainees to family members or others who can maintain social distance until the crisis passes. Immigrants at the detention centers we serve are afraid. They are not able to make safe choices to protect themselves against COVID 19.”

While ICE states that it is testing immigrants in its facilities, it has refused to state how many people it is actually testing or provide any information on how it is testing individuals in its centers. Results released from tests so far have shown that nearly half of those detainees tested came back positive, which is a high rate when compared to the 10% positive rate for the state of Texas overall. Perhaps even more problematic is the fact that ICE does not test its contract workers who maintain the facilities and come and go daily.

6 out of 10 ICE detainees in March 2020 had no criminal records and only 1 in 10 detainees had a conviction for a crime ICE considered serious. Lightsey went on to add, “To keep vulnerable people—most of whom have no criminal history—locked up in close quarters without access to treatment and with only sporadic testing for the virus is inhumane.”

American Gateways urges Immigration and Customs Enforcement, the agency that oversees detention centers, to review the custody of all individuals being held toward significantly reducing the detainee population and driving down health risks and release anyone who would be particularly susceptible to COVID-19 due to her or his age or medical history.

More information, contact:  Rebecca Lightsey, or 512-663-6333.

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