(USA Features) Releasing illegal immigrants who have been detained by U.S. authorities over unsubstantiated fears they could be exposed to coronavirus while incarcerated is a greater risk to society, a non-partisan panel heard on Monday.
The panel discussion, hosted by the Center for Immigration Studies, noted that there are roughly 40,000 individuals in U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement custody, but activists want them released, ostensibly to protect them from the virus.
In recent weeks, federal judges around the country have ordered ICE to release detainees on the allegation they are safer outside detention centers.
But that makes no sense, argue opponents, who say that the prevalence of coronavirus in the general population is likely a far bigger threat to their safety and that incarceration means migrants are basically quarantined from society.
On April 12, U.S. District Judge Madeline Cox Arleo ordered five ICE detainees with underlying health conditions released from New Jersey jails, The Epoch Times reported.
On March 29, citing virus concerns, U.S. District Judge Dolly Gee in Los Angeles ordered the government to “make continuous efforts” to release children in immigration detention centers.
Last week, U.S. Distriict Judge William G. Young ordered Bristol County, Mass. Sheriff Thomas M. Hodgson to release eight immigration detainees at a jail after a pair of staffers tested positive for the virus.
The judge had previously ordered three other detainees released after a nurse at the facility tested positive.
“Ironically, of my 850 detainees/inmates, we have had no COVID-19 cases since the pandemic began, and this judge is releasing these detainees under a ‘humanitarian’ claim,” Hodgson said at the time.
“I can think of nothing more inhumane than letting dangerous people wander around our neighborhoods, based on a claim that maybe, just maybe, they could contract COVID-19 in the detention center.”
“Detainees deserve to be housed in safe, healthy facilities,” said Andrew Arthur, a CIS resident fellow in law and policy and former immigration judge at a detention facility.
“But policymakers must compare their situation in the facility to their safety outside of the facility and the availability of treatment inside to that outside of the facility. And who should be making these decisions? What if a single judge says to empty the jails and detention centers completely? Judges should not be controlling policy in this manner.”
“Policymakers must also remember that detention often serves public safety because most of the aliens taken into detention are convicted criminals,” said Dan Cadman, a CIS fellow and retired official with ICE and its predecessor agency.
“Once released, most of these individuals will re-offend.”
He added that because of the high incarceration standards ICE must use detainees are better protected from the virus in those facilities than they are on the outside.