On March 24, 2020, a 31-year-old Mexican national in Bergen County Jail, New Jersey, became the first federal immigration detainee to test positive for the novel coronavirus (COVID-19). By April 10, 2020, New Jersey had more confirmed COVID-19 cases among immigration detainees than any other state in the nation. This article examines the relationship between COVID-19 and processes of migrant detention and deportation through a case study of New Jersey — an early epicenter of the pandemic and part of the broader New York City metro area. Drawing on publicly available reports and in-depth interviews with wardens, immigration lawyers, advocates, and former detainees, we describe the initial COVID-19 response in four detention facilities in New Jersey. Our findings suggest that migrant detention and deportation present distinct challenges that undermine attempts to contain the spread of COVID-19. We provide testimonies from migrant detainees who speak to these challenges in unsettling personal terms. Our interviews highlight the insufficient actions by Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) to contain the spread of the pandemic and a troubling lack of due process in immigration court proceedings. Based on these findings, we argue that reducing the number of migrants detained in the United States is needed not only in the context of the COVID-19 pandemic but also as a preventative measure for future health crises. Reductions can be achieved, in part, by reforming federal immigration laws on “mandatory detention.”
A new featured story from The Marshall Project profiles three families in northeast Ohio who have faced “financial ruin, mental health crises—and even death” after one member of each family was deported. Using extensive analysis of census data from the Center for Migration of New York (CMS), the feature concludes that about 909,000 mixed-status families, those with undocumented and US citizen members, would face financial hardship and risk falling into poverty if their undocumented breadwinners were deported.
The US response to the COVID-19 pandemic has been to fortify migration polices that violate the human rights of migrants. Beyond suspending hearings for asylum-seekers subject to the Migrant Protection Protocols (MPP), the US government has ordered the rapid repatriation of apprehended migrants, including asylum seekers and unaccompanied minors, has continued deportation proceedings and removals, and has suspended many legal migration processes. On April 10, the administration asserted its right, resulting from the “profound and unique public health risks posed by the novel (new) coronavirus” to impose visa sanctions on countries that deny or delay “the acceptance of aliens who are citizens, subjects, nationals or residents of that country” that impede the Department of Homeland Security’s (DHS’s) response to the pandemic. Expulsions, removals, and denial of access to asylum have become central to the US pandemic response, without the US offering evidence connecting the spread of the virus to persons arriving at US land borders. The situation unfolding in Guatemala is particularly illustrative.
This paper addresses a prominent issue in the US immigration debate; that is, whether immigrants, particularly those without status, are more likely than US natives to commit crimes and to pose a threat to public safety. It find that immigrants are less likely than similar US natives to commit violent and property crimes, and that communities with more immigrants have similar or lower rates of violent and property crimes than those with fewer immigrants. The few studies on the criminal behavior of unauthorized immigrants suggest that these immigrants also have a lower propensity to commit crime than their native-born peers, although possibly a higher propensity than legal immigrants. Legalization programs, in turn, have been found to reduce crime rates, while increased border enforcement has mixed effects on crime rates. It concludes that a legalization or similar program have more potential to improve public safety and security than several other policies that have recently been proposed or implemented.
This paper analyzes the impact of the Trump administration immigration policies on Catholic organizations, presenting the results of CMS’s Federal Enforcement Effect Research (FEER) Survey. It finds that US policies in the Trump era have significantly increased immigrant demand for the services provided by Catholic institutions and, in general, that these institutions have expanded their services in response. However, 59 percent of respondents – the highest total for this question – identified “fear of apprehension or deportation” as “negatively” impacting immigrants’ access to their services. In addition, 57 percent reported that immigration enforcement has “very negatively” or “somewhat negatively” affected the participation of immigrants in their programs or ministries. The FEER Survey illustrates the need for broad immigration reform. It shows that the status quo prevents immigrants from accessing the services they need and it impedes people of faith from effectively exercising their religious convictions on human dignity, protection, and service to the poor and vulnerable.