A recording of today’s call is available here
WASHINGTON, D.C. — Faith, law enforcement and policy leaders called on the Trump administration to immediately end its reported “binary choice” policy and release non-violent immigrant detainees on a press call today.
With a new Trump administration policy reportedly forcing migrant parents to choose between family separation and indefinite detention in crowded facilities, speakers on the call drew attention to the cruel and inhumane decision families face amid the pandemic, and pointed to more compassionate and effective solutions like alternatives to detention.
Speakers also expressed grave concern over the spread of COVID-19 in immigration detention facilities, warning that the crowded nature of facilities and high rate of positive cases in U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) facilities puts immigrants as well as facility staff, their families and their entire communities at risk and raises further concerns over the harms of indefinite family detention.
The following are quotes from speakers on today’s call:
Dona Abbott, Senior Vice President, Global, Refugee and Immigrant Services, Bethany Christian Services:
“The administration’s recent ‘binary choice’ practice — which forces asylum-seeking parents to choose between separating from their children and indefinite detention in crowded, unsanitary facilities — is nothing short of horrifying. … Asking a parent to make a choice between their child’s long-term emotional health and short-term physical health is cruel. … As a nation, we can be better than family separation, ‘Remain in Mexico’ and ‘binary choice.’ … We do not need to choose between safety from COVID-19 transmission and saving the lives of refugee and immigrant families and children. We can and should do both.”
Ashley Feasley, Director of Policy, Migration and Refugee Services Offices, United States Conference of Catholic Bishops:
“While we are facing a global pandemic, the need to keep families together is paramount and it is central to our values both as people of faith but also as Americans. Giving parents an impossible choice of accepting indefinite family detention during COVID-19 or being separated from their children is heartbreaking … and it also goes against the best policies that we have as it relates to safe and compliant release in the form of alternatives to detention. As a country we can do better by these families, and by taxpayers by ensuring that families are released and utilize alternatives to detention with case management.”
Sheriff James Manfre (Ret.), Flagler County, Palm Coast, Florida; Law Enforcement Action Partnership (LEAP) National Speaker:
“As a former law enforcement official, I’m seriously concerned about the clear public health dangers detention facilities are facing, including immigration detention facilities. … Even at their best, detention facilities are unsanitary and have limited access to health care. These are breeding grounds for this pandemic. … Government should take immediate steps to address this massive threat to public health. … We need to reduce the population of detainees and we must start by reducing the population of non-violent felony offenders, like those who are in immigration detention who do not pose a serious risk to the broader community.”
Briana Stensrud, Director, Welcome.:
“For me and many evangelicals, immigrants are first and foremost people made in the image of God and we are compelled to care about their plight. When I see families like this exposed to the current pandemic and forced to decide between two gut-wrenching options — whether they should split up to keep their children safe or stay together indefinitely in unsafe conditions — I am devastated and appalled. These are vulnerable people in our care and within our oversight. We can do better — we must do better. The inherent dignity of immigrants and refugees should not be controversial, nor is it a partisan issue. We must move forward toward an approach that acknowledges safety concerns but anchors those concerns in an ocean of compassion that leads us to a humane and dignified outcome for these families.”
Laurence Benenson, Assistant Vice President of Policy and Advocacy, National Immigration Forum:
“The spread of coronavirus in ICE facilities is a public health crisis for all Americans. As the virus spreads in detention facilities, it threatens the health and safety of immigrants, but also attorneys, visitors, guards, maintenance staff, and others who can carry the virus back into the community. That’s why we call on ICE to immediately release non-violent immigrant detainees and rely on alternatives to detention like case management and tracking devices, which are cost-efficient, effective and safer for all of us.”
Ali Noorani, President and CEO, National Immigration Forum:
“While America continues to face the coronavirus pandemic, President Trump has leveraged the crisis to crack down on immigration in ways that make our country less safe. Forcing migrant parents to choose between family separation and indefinite detention in crowded facilities does not make us safer. At the same time, with a high rate of positives and only a fraction of immigration detainees tested, COVID-19 has the potential to spread across entire communities before ICE is even aware of a facility’s outbreak — putting all Americans at risk. That’s why we are calling on the Trump administration to immediately end ‘binary choice’ and explore alternative, compassionate solutions that will reduce the spread of coronavirus within these facilities.”