House Democrats led by Rep. Pramila Jayapal, D-Wash., urged the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) and Immigrations and Customs Enforcement (ICE) not to go after unlawful immigrants whom they had released due to the COVID-19 pandemic.
Jayapal, along with dozens of House lawmakers, wrote to DHS Secretary Alejandro Mayorkas and ICE acting Director Tae Johnson, asking them to refrain from re-detaining those whom they had released solely due to improving pandemic conditions.
“Re-detaining individuals solely as a result of our nation’s recovery from the pandemic is unacceptable,” the lawmakers said in a statement.
They said that ICE’s position on re-detaining migrants has been “inconsistent.”
“The overwhelming majority of these individuals are now living safely at home with their families, with clear improvements to their health. They are also providing valuable support to their communities and loved ones, in compliance with the terms of their release and while posing no danger to the community,” the lawmakers said.
DHS could not immediately be reached for comment.
As of May 2021, 16,000 immigrants have contracted COVID-19 and nine have died after contracting it, according to the lawmakers.
The letter praised ICE’s and DHS’ work to curtail deportations and roll back “draconian” immigration enforcement measures in the interior.
Customs and Border Protection (CBP) began releasing immigrants to curb the spread of coronavirus in April 2020, prioritizing those with preexisting conditions, just as did prisons across the country.
Under the Biden administration, ICE has been releasing a growing number of migrants into the U.S., not only due to COVID but also due to a swell of Latin Americans arriving illegally at the U.S. border and a lack of proper facilities to care for them.
Between October and January, ICE was releasing between 2,500 and 3,600 immigrants a month. In February, that increased to 4,782 and increased again in March to 11,888 – and then in April to 12,726.
Fox News’ Adam Shaw contributed to this report.