Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) detention centers have received little to no mainstream media coverage from major news sources during the past year.
COVID-19 is rapidly spreading through the crowded jails and detention centers that hold ICE detainees, and the people within are not being cared for. Little to nothing has been done to keep COVID-19 contained within centers, immigration hearings have continued throughout the pandemic and ICE detainees have filed cases against for-profit jails they were held in.
Seeing that we have a new president in office who has made promises to fix this inhumane system, Joe Biden should begin to initiate changes, starting with executive orders undoing some of the policies former President Donald Trump set in place. He should also propose solutions to the problems ICE detention centers are facing right now.
It’s no question that ICE detention centers are unsanitary, crowded and lack vital supplies. With COVID-19 being in the United States for over a year now, ICE detention centers have made little to no changes regarding their procedures. In fact, concerns regarding the health and safety of individuals in ICE detention centers have persisted for years.
The Department of Homeland Security (DHS) and Performance Based National Detention Standards (PBNDS) found many disturbing violations in 2019—before the coronavirus existed. According to the Health Affairs journal, “COVID-19 has highlighted underlying problems of how ICE detention facilities inappropriately endanger the health of its individuals.”
Although the CDC has set some guidelines for these centers, such as mandating individuals keep a six-foot distance from each other and quarantining detainees who have been exposed to the virus, some are near impossible to follow due to tight quarters. It’s hard to imagine these guidelines are being taken seriously when there have been continuous health violations in the past.
As well as the general lack of regard toward providing and maintaining the health of ICE detainees, there have been disturbing allegations from a whistleblower, a nurse that worked at an ICE detention center in Georgia, about dozens of women in ICE custody being sterilized without their consent; she also reported a lack of medical care and unsafe work practice at the facility. This means that when detainees are given medical care, not only is it not in their best interest, but their rights are taken away in potentially unsafe conditions.
Even if not consciously, these horrific practices are dangerously close to the modern practice of eugenics; these women held in ICE facilities who are sterilized are denied the right to have children and continue to diversify the world population.
ICE detention centers are a troubling piece of American society that have been swept under the rug for far too long. These problems did not start during the Trump presidency, although he did contribute to the overpopulation of ICE detention centers by enforcing strict policy which led to the detention of more people than the previous administration. There has been reporting on the poor quality of ICE detention centers since the Obama administration was in power.
According to Just Security, “In its 2011 report, the [Inter-American commission on Human Rights] expressed concerns over ‘persistent complaints of improper medical care for immigration detainees.’ LaSalle has been accused of allowing, or creating, poor conditions in its facilities and taking inadequate measures to protect the health of detainees, including in the context of COVID-19.”
Biden has made several promises to overturn Trump-era policies—especially ones relating to immigration. His website states, “Immigration is essential to who we are as a nation, our core values, and our aspirations for our future.” He clearly points out on his website that Trump’s misguided policy is not only costly for taxpayers, but detrimental to the economy as well. This is because many immigrants contribute to some of the key sectors of the U.S. economy, such as agriculture. Biden quotes “The Hamilton Project,” which states “the total annual contribution of foreignborn workers is roughly $2 trillion.”
Now that Biden is president, many immigrants and their families await these promises to be fulfilled. Biden called Mexican president Andrés Manuel López Obrador on Jan. 23 to outline his new immigration plan, which prioritizes reversing the harsh immigration policies the Trump Administration had put in place. The two leaders plan to work together on this cause, as well as on reducing irregular migration—the illegal movement of migrants.
It’s clear that in the first few days of Biden’s presidency, he has already successfully begun to undo much of Trump’s work, starting with signing an executive order that calls on Congress to enact legislation regarding a path toward permanent residency for Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) program and ending the muslim ban. Only time will tell if Biden will roll back the rest of Trump’s immigration agenda, or whether some policies will remain to haunt us in the future.