ICE Lacks COVID-19 Testing For Deportations Amid Pandemic

Posted on 06/08/20

The United States Immigration and Customs Enforcement agency lack the necessary testing for all immigrants awaiting deportation to their native countries and those who may be transferred to different facilities. This comes as the agency announced it was unable to routinely test immigrants who were detained and asked the United States Senate for additional COVID-19 tests.

Henry Lucero, an associate director within the agency testified in front of the United States Senate Judiciary committee admitting to sending COVID positive individuals to countries like Guatemala without being tested for the disease. Mr. Lucero also added that the agency never knowingly sent the individuals if the disease was known to the agency. “We are aware of reports that after they are returned to their home countries, some countries have tested individuals that were positive. But there were no known positives that were removed actively with COVID-19,” said Mr. Lucero.

Mr. Lucero responded to senate Judiciary officials with a list of other procedures the agency takes before transferring or removing any immigrant who was slated for deportation. They included a checklist of symptoms, temperature checks, and testing a small subset of individuals within the facility to see if the disease was widespread. Although the agency doesn’t test each deportee, these procedures are required for each immigrant. This comes as the CDC announced that some individuals can show no symptoms and still transmit the disease to other people. Some nations have entered agreements with the United States to bilaterally test all deportees, Mr. Lucero furthered but the specific countries’ names were not identified.

The United States Immigration and Customs Enforcement agency has decreased detained immigrants significantly over the past several months at just 44% capacity. ICE had nearly 55,000 detainees in custody this time last year, at the end of May ICE had just 26,000 detainees.

A majority of the population decrease is due to immigration bans and travel bans into the United States from Mexico, Canada, Europe, and China.

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