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.”
This report reviews US detention developments from March 1 to August 1, 2020, a period when COVID-19 established itself and spread through the sprawling US detention system and beyond it. The report – which CMS updated regularly during this period – documents ICE’s fatally flawed response to this crisis, paying particular attention to the role of the private corporations that largely operate this system. It explores how the pandemic exploited and exacerbated longstanding problems in this system, such as its privatization, prison-like facilities, correctional standards, lack of transparency, and perverse financial incentives.
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.
Despite the largest immigration enforcement budget in US history, the Border Patrol is set to apprehend the highest number of border crossers in more than a decade. This essay argues that the administration’s enforcement-only approach cannot successfully address this humanitarian crisis, and does not deserve any additional funding. Instead, the administration should respond to the conditions driving Central American and Venezuelan asylum seekers, provide protection for those fleeing violence and other impossible conditions, and create a strong, well-resourced US asylum system.