Undocumented Hoosiers detained in the custody of Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) at Clay County Jail and other midwestern facilities should be released from custody immediately.
These agencies lack the equipment and training necessary to address a COVID-19 outbreak. Their track record of abuse and medical neglect make it implausible to trust them with continued detention of any number of individuals — especially during a pandemic. In fact, the Department of Homeland Security’s (DHS) own Civil Rights and Civil Liberties Office recently noted that ICE has “systematically provided inadequate medical and mental health care and oversight to immigration detainees in facilities throughout the U.S.”
Indiana residents who are detained include individuals with traffic offenses, individuals picked up in collateral arrests by ICE in immigrant neighborhoods, as well as individuals with low-level convictions, and those who recently arrived in the U.S. to seek asylum. The time is past due to take action to ensure all of our fellow Hoosiers are protected during this public health crisis.
The ACLU has long said that the vast majority of people in immigration detention are being jailed unnecessarily. COVID-19 makes their detention not only unnecessary, but an even greater risk to their lives.
In addition, the detention of immigrants in high density detention centers, such as jails, doesn’t just put their safety and health at risk. It also jeopardizes the health and safety of facility staff, as well as the communities they return home to.
The breadth of immigration detention in Indiana is one integral part of a system that has detained as many as 52,000 people per day, making it the largest detention system in the world. But it does not have to be this way. Just a few decades ago, the United States did not put immigrants and people seeking asylum in detention. ICE still has the discretion to release detained individuals and require them to attend non-detained court hearings in the future.
Hoosier families separated by immigration detention are facing shelter in place without the income and support of their detained family member and face exorbitantly high fees just to speak to them over the phone. Like many Hoosiers, undocumented families are facing uncertainties in their employment, housing, and financial situations, but with added fear of requesting assistance or accessing health care. We must stand in solidarity with our undocumented neighbors during the COVID-19 pandemic in order to truly live up to our Hoosier values.