WASHINGTON, April 21, 2020 — The American Civil Liberties Union and the ACLU Border Rights Center (BRC) sent a letter today to the Department of Homeland Security and Customs and Border Protection (CBP) demanding that CBP, including Border Patrol, temporarily suspend civil immigration enforcement, release everyone in CBP detention, and halt all border wall construction during the COVID-19 pandemic. The letter calls on CBP to cease any enforcement at sensitive locations — such as doctors’ offices, hospitals, churches, and schools — and to issue clear guidance that this enforcement will end, as Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) did in March.
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“We know that CBP activities overwhelmingly impact communities of color and are likely to discourage those in need from traveling to access medical care or other essential services. At a time when Black and Brown communities are dying at a disproportionate rate from COVID-19, we must ensure they do not face unjust burdens in accessing care,” said Andrea Flores, deputy director of policy for ACLU’s Equality Division. “With at least 265 confirmed COVID-19 cases among CBP employees, temporarily suspending civil enforcement, releasing all people in detention, and pausing border wall construction are critical steps to ensure the safety of border residents, people in detention, DHS staff, and surrounding communities. Lives are on the line.”
CBP’s interior checkpoints force hundreds of thousands of border residents to engage with an agent to access essential services — deterring many people from making such necessary trips.Further, CBP jails — facilities long plagued by overcrowding, inadequate medical care, and unsanitary conditions — are not designed or equipped to handle this extraordinary public health crisis. In order to meaningfully reduce the systemic spread of the virus, all people in detention must be temporarily released.