EL PASO, Texas (Border Report) – Three Democrats have reintroduced a bill to keep a federal immigration agency from transferring detained migrants to other detention centers or state and local prisons during the COVID-19 pandemic.
The legislators are also calling for the release of migrants if the detention centers cannot comply with Centers for Disease Control and Prevention social distancing guidelines.
“The COVID-19 public health crisis is not over yet, and detained immigrants and ICE employees in detention facilities remain at risk,” said U.S. Rep. Veronica Escobar, D-Texas.
She and U.S Reps. Jason Crow, D-Colorado and Silvia Garcia, D-Texas, this week reintroduced the End Transfers of Detained Migrants Act. Sens. Michael Bennet, D-Colorado, Elizabeth Warren, D-Massachusetts, and Richard Blumenthal, D-Connecticut, introduced the Senate version of the legislation. The bill was initially introduced to the previous Congress last November.
The lawmakers said more than 20,000 migrants remain in detention centers and prisons, while 129 detention centers across the country are still reporting confirmed cases of COVID-19. They noted that CDC as recently as May 6 was still recommending that detention facilities and prisons stop most transfers. A link from the nonprofit Freedom for Immigrants shared by Escobar shows the El Paso Processing Center and the nearby Otero County Processing Center as reporting positive cases.
“The Trump administration is over, and we must eliminate every one of their reckless policies. Because this practice continues, I am reintroducing this critical legislation to end the transfer of detainees for the duration of the pandemic, stop the spread of this deadly virus, and protect lives,” said Escobar, who represents most of El Paso.
On the Senate side, Blumenthal said shuffling detained migrants around makes them more vulnerable to catching or spreading the coronavirus.
“Unnecessarily transferring detained people between immigration facilities risks spreading COVID-19 and threatens the health and safety of an already vulnerable population, not to mention the surrounding community where these facilities are located. Our legislation would put an end to the practice of endlessly, needlessly shuttling people from one detention facility to the next,” he said.