MINNEAPOLIS (WCCO) – Rep. Ilhan Omar led a letter calling for a suspension of interior immigration enforcement, a deportation freeze and a comprehensive plan to prevent the spread of COVID-19 in immigration detention facilities.

The letter was directed to Acting Secretary of Homeland Security Chad Wolf. In the letter, it pointed out how even before the COVID-19 pandemic, detention facilities have been breeding grounds for illnesses.

The letter was signed by Reps. Rashida Tlaib, Debbie Dingell, Joseph P. Kennedy III, Barbara Lee, David E. Price, Raúl M. Grijalva, Scott Peters, Henry C. “Hank” Johnson, Jr., Mark Takano, Mark Pocan, Judy Chu, Tony Cárdenas, Jan Schakowsky, and Eleanor Holmes Norton.

The letter proceeded the news that an ICE employee at the detention center in Elizabeth, N.J. tested positive for coronavirus. With detainees who have compromised immune systems, holding them in detention “may be literally a matter of life and death.”

The letter also discussed the risk that undocumented people will not seek medical attention due to fear or deportation, which essentially puts others at risk.

As the virus has spread across the world in a matter of weeks, “deporting people who may have been exposed to coronavirus to either countries that have few or no cases or to countries with weak health care infrastructure is an unacceptable risk to take,” members wrote. “Many countries, including the United States, are implementing strict border controls during this pandemic, and we should make no exception for ICE Air and deportations.

The letter ended in a request for a response no later than Friday, March 20.

Related: Coronavirus Resource Page

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