The NH Immigrant Rights Network and the NH Immigrant Solidarity Network, two statewide coalitions of organizations and individuals working with and within immigrant communities to improve lives and ensure just treatment, are calling on federal immigration enforcement agencies to halt detention and to release detained immigrants due to the Covid-19 pandemic.
In a letter dated March 20, 2020 to the heads of the Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) and Customs and Border Protection (CBP), the groups called for an immediate halt to “all non-essential enforcement actions such as CBP checkpoints and warrantless bus searches and ICE raids and sweeps of neighborhoods, workplaces, places of public accommodation and other locations.”
“Actions such as these,” they said, “that are not aimed at specific targets, strike terror within immigrant communities, not only for those individuals without lawful status but also U.S. citizens and others who are lawfully present. This fear serves to inhibit people from seeking the state and local assistance they may need and to which they are entitled.”
“We are concerned that during this national emergency, many in the immigrant community, especially those who are undocumented or have a family member who is undocumented, will not seek medical help even if they are experiencing symptoms of COVID-19,” they added.
ICE and CBP, generally known as the Border Patrol, are both part of the Department of Homeland Security.
The letter also calls for the release of immigrants held on civil charges at Strafford Corrections in Dover, a county facility that contracts with ICE to detain upwards of 100 immigrants slated for deportation.
“It is well-documented that the close living quarters and other poor environmental conditions at correctional facilities place their inhabitants at higher risk of disease communication than the general public,” they said. “We ask that, in order to reduce the spread of COVID-19 via civil detention facilities, ICE exercise its discretion and implement emergency procedures to release detainees.”
Copies of the letter, which was signed by dozens of leaders of religious and civic groups statewide, were also sent to members of the state’s Congressional delegation.
“This is a time that calls for everyone to act in the interest of the public good. We expect our governmental institutions to act swiftly to protect the people in times of danger. We are in those times now and we call upon you and all of DHS to take every step to stop the spread of COVID-19 through immediate implementation of our requests and to additionally institute any other policies that will contribute to the suppression of this pandemic,” the letter concluded.