We are all in this together

We are all in this together, we always have been but the behavior of some has often not reflected this fact of life. Our current health care crisis has taught this lesson to some.  Previously, few were concerned about whether or not food service workers were paid sick leave.  We all know that if sick pay is not available, people will come to work sick, infecting other workers and the customers. Now many have now come to understand that paid sick leave for all workers protects everyone. If people do not have sick pay and do not have health care, we will all suffer. 

In this time of crisis and social distancing, it is important to look at aspects of this as it relates to immigration.  

Public Charge Analysis 

One of the new anti-immigrant policies which I have not had time to write about is the new “Pubic Charge Analysis” by which all but the most well off are denied U.S. residence despite having significant family ties in the U.S.  It is a draconian measure, and everyone is struggling to understand how the Immigration service will apply this. A bit of good news on this is that USCIS announced on Friday that any immigrant who gets tested or treated will not be negatively impacted as part of a future public charge analysis. 

Asylum detainees 

Noah Lanard, a reporter for Mother Jones wrote that “Last week, a Cuban asylum seeker called me from a for-profit jail in Louisiana to express the same fear shared by people across the world. The man, whom I’ll call Alberto to protect him from potential retaliation, had more reason to worry about the coronavirus than most: He was detained in a crowded room alongside nearly 100 others at a jail run by LaSalle Corrections, a company with a long record of providing shoddy medical care. ‘If coronavirus gets in here’ he said, ‘it’s going to be a massacre.’”   When reading this, I urge you to remember that we are all in this together – this is not just about those in ICE detention.  Those detained may be infected by jail workers who bring it into the facility, and/or the jail workers may be infected by the detainees and bring it back to their families and communities. 

Apart from the current crisis, ICE has been found by at least one federal Judge to be unnecessarily subjecting asylum seekers to mandatory detention. These people are not criminals, they are seeking safety in this country. According to Mother Jones, between 2011 and 2013, five of ICE’s field offices approved 92% of asylum seekers requests to be released on parole. In the first months of the Trump administration, that rate dropped to 4 percent. Now, ICE is not just subjecting asylum seekers to unnecessary detention, ICE is subjecting them to a possible “massacre”

Time Magazine also recently published as story about CoVid-19 and immigration detention which included a quote from a immigration attorney in Washington State pointing out that “ I think this is a little different from outbreaks that they have handled in the past,” Adam Boyd, an immigration attorney with clients detained at the NWDC, tells TIME. “If [COVID-19] is in there, I’m imagining that it’s going to spread very quickly.” Previous outbreaks — of mumps and chicken pox, for example — mostly pose a threat to those who have never been inoculated to protect against those diseases, he adds. “This, because it can infect everybody in there, I don’t imagine that they’re well prepared to deal with it.” 

If the virus infects those in detention (and it will) it will certainly spread to the community through jail workers. And how will the jails handle the facilities with a significant portion of their staff infected? 

Many are calling for significant releases of detainees. Marc Stern, who served as the health services director for Washington state’s Department of Corrections  explained that reducing detainee populations would slow the spread by creating more distance between people and called for release of detainees on their own recognizance or other alternatives such as ankle brackets. At the very least, those who are most at risk including older people and those with pre-existing conditions should be released. ICE should also consider releasing all who are not a flight risk or a risk to public safety before they (ICE) make this crisis worse for everyone.  

Linda M Kaplan
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