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April 29, 2020

Congress Must Restrict ICE Amid COVID-19

NIAC is dedicated to supporting Iranian immigrants in the United States, which is a fight that continues amid the COVID-19 pandemic. NIAC has co-signed a letter to members of the House of Representatives and the Senate urging them to pass the Federal Immigrant Release for Safety and Security Together Act (FIRST Act), which would provide vital restrictions on immigration detention and enforcement during the COVID-19 pandemic.

The importance of social distancing in the fight against COVID-19 cannot be overstated, but social distancing in detention centers is impossible. As public health experts call for the Department of Homeland Security to release those held in detention and curtail immigration enforcement, the agency continues to risk the lives of thousands of immigrants and asylum seekers in their custody. ICE has repeatedly failed to provide basic hygiene products, including soap and even hot water since the onset of the COVID-19 emergency, exacerbating the threat of the disease and presenting broader public health risks as staff go to and from the facilities.

At least one Iranian national, Dr. Sirous Asgari, has been held in these unsafe conditions and has regrettably contracted COVID-19. NIAC is working with other organizations representing the Iranian-American community in calling on ICE to move him to a hospital for proper treatment.

The FIRST Act would 1) release all immigrants in custody who are considered at risk to COVID-19 because of age or pre-existing medical conditions (with some exceptions), 2) require a presumption of release for all other individuals in custody, unless DHS can meet a high evidentiary standard justifying continued detention, 3) provide basic health and sanitary supplies and free phone access to all in custody and 4) suspend immigration enforcement during the pandemic in most circumstances and prohibit enforcement at medical facilities and other places that offer vital assistance.

Not only would this bill help Dr. Asgari, but many more immigrants whose health is similarly and needlessly jeopardized by ICE’s inhumane practices.

Read the full letter below:

Organizational-Support-Letter-for-FIRST-Act (1)
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