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People all over the United States and around the world are restricting movement and increasing their social distance in an effort to curb the spread of coronavirus. But for the more than 37,000 people in immigration and customs enforcement (ICE) detention facilities, social distance is not always an option.
Prisoners include families
with children as seven as seven, according to Amnesty International, some of
who have been waiting for the asylum hearing for months. The conditions are
often cramped, with interns sharing housing too little to accommodate the six
feet social distance.
"It will further escalate a public health crisis if we do not look at the best way to provide public health assistance to any person, regardless of immigration status," said Denise Bell, a refugee and migrant researcher. rights for Amnesty International.
The human costs of coronavirus in the closed environment for detention centers can be devastating and tear quickly through populations, according to advocates. Meanwhile, President Donald Trump recently announced that undocumented people trying to cross the border from Mexico would be sent back without asylum consultation ̵
"It has given him the coverage to get to the endgame that he has long wanted, which is to close the limit for people seeking asylum and other immigrants," says Bell Fortune .  For ICE interns who have medical conditions or are older, coronaviruses pose a potentially fatal threat. A report from the Department of Homeland Security last summer described "serious violations of internment standards," in certain ICE centers, including inadequate medical care, expired food and lack of hygiene items. Several nonprofit organizations – and even a former ICE director – have pushed to release some interns during this epidemic. The ACLU sued for immediate release of certain vulnerable prisoners from an ICE center in Tacoma, Washington, earlier this month. A federal district court denied the request, but the case is ongoing.
ICE was in place
protocols to protect employees and interns, according to a statement shared with Fortune .
The agency will "temporarily adjust its enforcement position", focusing on
arrests based on criminal grounds. ICE also stopped social visits to slow down
the potential spread of the virus. At least one New Jersey employee has
tested positive for the virus; no detainees have yet tested positive, according to
to a spokesperson.
A parallel situation has
has already unfolded in Europe, where a growing crisis on the Greek border
has caused EU tensions regarding refugee care and resettlement. The camps
in Greece, and serves as a makeshift home for men, women and children – many of them
refugee war in Syria – is not prepared for an epidemic. Greek refugee camps
six to seven times more people than they were designed for, according to
Jennifer Sime, senior vice president of refugee
resettlement and asylum by
The International Rescue Committee. Inadequate shower and wash basin
often makes it difficult for citizens to follow the proposed protocols, and many
people in the camps have pre-existing health conditions, she noted.
At the refugee camp of Moria, Greece, around 20,000 people live in a shelter designed for only 3,000. Many volunteers have had to temporarily stop their activities in the camps, both for their own health and for the camp's inhabitants, and for refugees and migrants in growing numbers. degree is left. Moria women asylum seekers have taken to sewing their own masks to prepare, use clothes and plastic packaging from the grocery store, reported Guardian .
Extreme right-wing European
leaders have used xenophobic rhetoric and cane fears of coronaviruses to do so
sidestep a legal duty to care for refugees. “We are fighting a two-front war, one front is called migration and the other
belongs to coronavirus, there is a logical connection between the two, which
both spread with movement, "Viktor Orban, Hungary's nationalist prime minister,
said in March.
Orban's warning – much like the Trumps – ignored the fact that the vast majority of asylum seekers come from countries with drastically lower virus rates than Europe or the United States. While many border closures around the world are a necessary measure, there is little statistical evidence for the United States' decision to turn away migrants and asylum seekers from Central America over coronavirus. As of Wednesday morning, the United States had 55,238 cases of coronavirus, according to tracker Johns Hopkins University. The so-called Northern Triangle of Guatemala, El Salvador and Honduras – where many migrants come from – had a collective 66 cases.
Trump's earlier attempt to
issuing similar orders along the Mexican border was blocked because the U.S.
Constitution protects the right to due process for all on American soil. Asylum seekers in
especially have the right to a hearing.
Scapegoating and xenophobia have highlighted Trump's discourse around COVID-19,
according to historians of the Washington Post who pointed to the Trumps
insistence on calling it "the Chinese virus." Asian Americans said so
fears that the president's rhetoric may encourage further racism against them, such as
many have already reported being scared by or even spit on by strangers, according to The New York Times .
The outside right-wing political groups across the United States have also tried to capitalize on the chaos of coronavirus, according to Cynthia Miller-Idriss, a fellow of right-wing extremism at American University in Washington, DC. Their conspiracy theories blame viruses on a variety of groups, from Jews to Democrats to the so-called "deep state." Neo-Nazis have even urged people infected with the virus to spread it to Jews and to law enforcement, according to a statement from the FBI shared with ABC News.
"You have the risk of further polarization and the risk of exploitation of the virus by organized right-wing groups – both for biological terrorism, as we have already seen – but also for spreading conspiracy theories and for using it as a means to recruit youth who is increasingly online, "she tells Fortune Fortune .
Anti-immigrant rhetoric – both
from Trump and elsewhere – ignoring an unpleasant truth: a risk of internment
and refugees are actually a risk to everyone, according to doctors. Two medical experts
for the Department of Homeland Security, Congress warned in a letter about a "tinderbox scenario" in ICE detention centers. Fast transmission in closed environment
of an ICE detention center can cause local hospitals to be overwhelmed
Turn reduce critical resources like respirators for entire communities.
"Rethinking security and public health risks, and taking action immediately, will save lives for not only those in custody, but also detention staff and their families, and society as a whole," they wrote.
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