ICE is a federal government law enforcement agency whose responsibilities include preventing people from entering the United States illegally, apprehending people who are illegally present in the US, detaining certain immigrants, and similar police operations. Because ICE’s resources and activities have been hampered by the coronavirus crisis, the agency has issued a statement detailing its enforcement priorities during the crisis.

Places Where ICE Generally Does Not Operate

Under normal circumstances, ICE will not conduct surveillance, apprehensions, arrests, etc. in the vicinity of hospitals or other medical facilities, schools, or churches and other places of worship. The reason for the rules is that ICE does not wish to discourage these activities by scaring undocumented immigrants away from the locations where they are held.

This policy is especially important for medical facilities because failure to seek treatment when infected with coronavirus could lead to its transmission of the virus to just about anyone. ICE may conduct activities near these locations, however, if:

  • ICE has received a special waiver, which it must apply for in advance; or
  • “Exigent circumstances” (for example, a dangerous criminal fugitive deliberately flees into a hospital in order to avoid apprehension while ICE agents are in hot pursuit.

People Subject to the Intensive Supervision of Aliens Program (ISAP)

The ISAP program is an alternative to the detention of immigrants, who ICE believes are likely to commit criminal acts, skip immigration hearings, or hide from immigration authorities to avoid deportation if they are not monitored. Although strictly speaking, people in the ISAP program are not in detention, their whereabouts and activities are closely monitored by ICE, and evasion of ISAP restrictions could result in detention.

ISAP participants are generally required to attend appointments with ICE officers (sometimes at the participants’ homes), and check-in with their case officers at regular intervals. Problems that have arisen during the coronavirus crisis include, but are not necessarily limited to, the following:

  • ICE has suspended in-person appointments due to the coronavirus crisis;
  • The coronavirus crisis has made it difficult for many ISAP participants to attend their appointments even if they are not canceled; and
  • Case specialists are often difficult to contact by telephone.

If you face one of these problems, you should know that ICE is taking all of these difficulties into consideration. Your case specialist will likely contact you over the telephone as a substitute for an in-person appointment. If you have a scheduled in-person appointment, call your case specialist before your scheduled, regardless of whether or not you are able to attend.

If you cannot get through by phone, leave a message with your name, A-number, and telephone number, and your case specialist will call you at some point. Be sure to keep a record of the date, time, and content of any calls you make or messages you leave — you may need this information later.

Security guard using digital medical electronic thermometer measures checking body temperature screening passengers

Medical Screening Prior to Removals/Deportations

If you are ordered deported, you will be subject to a medical screening before you board your flight out of the United States. If you are sent directly home without ever leaving the airport, this screening will take place at the airport. In other cases, you will be subject to a medical screening before you are taken to the airport.

You will be subject to a temperature screening prior to boarding the aircraft, and If you register a temperature of 99 degrees Fahrenheit (37.2 degrees Celsius) or above, you will be classified as likely to have contracted Covid-19. In this case, you will not be allowed to board the aircraft, and you will be taken to an ICE facility in the US for additional screening.

Release of Immigration Detainees Due to Covid-19

The coronavirus seems to be spreading rapidly through certain immigration detention facilities, due to difficulties in maintaining social distancing. In response, ICE has released several hundred detainees across the nation, many of them with ankle bracelets to keep track of their whereabouts.

The detainees who were released were generally considered the lowest risk detainees based on their immigration and criminal history. At th9is point it seems unlikely that large numbers of detainees will be released.

International Criticism

Currently, Customs Enforcement (ICE) is holding nearly 40,000 immigration detainees at immigration detention facilities, and sometimes local jails, throughout the United States. Many detainees have participated in hunger strikes to protest inadequate sanitation and hygiene at these facilities. The US government has been harshly criticized by the international human rights organization Amnesty International as well as other observers.

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