- The Washington Times - Wednesday, May 20, 2020

Hispanic Democrats in Congress begged the Trump administration on Wednesday to stop all deportations, saying the U.S. could actually be spreading the coronavirus back to other nations by sending their citizens back home.

The Democrats cited reports that dozens of deportees returned to Central America and Haiti had COVID-19, the respiratory disease caused by the novel coronavirus, and said the receiving countries aren’t as equipped to handle the cases as the U.S., so it’s America’s obligation to hold them here.

The lawmakers said the dangers are particularly acute because U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement doesn’t do systematic testing on its detainees, so it doesn’t know whether it may be sending a COVID-positive migrant back to another country.

“The defeat of COVID-19 depends on our ability to prevent the spread of the virus to other countries and willingness to participate in a coordinated regional effort,” wrote the lawmakers, led by Hispanic Caucus Chair Joaquin Castro. “The administration’s choice to return people to ill-prepared countries represents an isolationist posture that undermines U.S. leadership, injures our relationships, threatens instability, and hinders our best chances of vanquishing COVID-19.”

In the letter, Mr. Castro and his colleagues demanded Homeland Security and the State Department report back on ICE deportation numbers and also on people the Border Patrol has immediately returned to Mexico and Canada, without going through formal deportations through ICE.

The Border Patrol is operating under an emergency public health order from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, which has said all unauthorized migrants at the borders present a health risk and must be barred from entry.

Fewer new illegal immigrants means ICE is holding fewer people in its facilities.

Its detention level as of May 9 was 27,908, which is tens of thousands below the level ICE has been operating at.

ICE said it has confirmed more than 1,145 cases of COVID-19 among people who have been through its custody since the pandemic began. That’s out of 2,194 detainees tested.

One detainee with COVID-19 has died, while another, an elderly South Korean man being deported after conviction on murder-related charges, apparently took his own life over the weekend after a judge refused to release him over his fears of contracting the virus.

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