ICE pausing most immigration enforcement during coronavirus crisis

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Immigration authorities will halt most enforcement across the U.S., shifting efforts to deport only foreign nationals who have committed crimes or pose a threat to public safety, Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) said Wednesday. 

The agency said it will “temporarily adjust” its enforcement beginning Wednesday, specifically saying people should not avoid seeking “medical care because they fear civil immigration enforcement.”

Changes will include delaying enforcement actions for individuals who do not pose a public safety risk until after the crisis and using alternatives to detention “as appropriate.” 

“ICE’s highest priorities are to promote life-saving and public safety activities,” the agency said in a statement. 

ICE said it will not carry out enforcement operations “at or near health care facilities,” including hospitals, doctor’s offices, accredited health clinics and emergency or urgent care facilities, “except in the most extraordinary of circumstances.” 

“Individuals should not avoid seeking medical care because they fear civil immigration enforcement,” ICE added.

Acting Deputy Secretary of Department of Homeland Security Ken Cuccinelli issued a statement of clarification Thursday morning, claiming there was “widespread misreporting.”

Cuccinelli said ICE will “conduct enforcement operations that protect our communities and uphold our laws,” while doubling down on the agency’s announcement that it will exercise its authority in “a manner that accounts for the dangers presented by COVID-19.”

“This means that ICE will continue to prioritize arresting and removing criminal aliens and other aliens who pose a threat to public safety, just as it always has during President Trump’s administration,” Cuccinelli said in a statement. “That does not mean that no other removable aliens will in fact be removed, but during the current public health situation, removals will be done in such a way as to minimize the exposure of our agents and of the removable aliens we are encountering.”

No detainees have tested positive for COVID-19 as of Wednesday, an agency spokesperson confirmed.

The shift in immigration enforcement comes as the outbreak is rapidly spreading across the U.S.

There are more than 9,400 confirmed cases of COVID-19 and 150 deaths from the virus in the U.S, according to data compiled by Johns Hopkins University.

Updated Thursday at 10:15 a.m.

Tags Coronavirus COVID-19 Donald Trump ICE Immigration Immigration and Customs Enforcement

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