The US Immigration and Customs Enforcement has released nearly 700 people from custody after conducting medical reviews stemming from concerns about coronavirus, according to Acting Deputy Secretary of Homeland Security Ken Cuccinelli.
The move comes amid lawsuits calling for the release of ICE detainees, as well as newly introduced legislation to require the release of most people in ICE detention during a national emergency related to a communicable disease.
ICE reviewed its cases to identify people who would be eligible for release, including detainees who are 60 years old and over and those who are pregnant. The agency later expanded its review to include all people in ICE custody to assess those who have “medical fragility," Cuccinelli said.
As of April 10, ICE has identified 693 people for release after evaluating medical history, as well as other factors such as criminal records, flight risk and national security concerns. When the assessments for release began, ICE had around 37,000 people in detention, according to Cuccinelli.
There are now fewer than 34,000 people in detention. However, that decrease is due to a slower pace of intake and ongoing deportations, not just medical releases.
Detainees who are released are put on "alternatives to detention," which could include an ankle monitor, but not always.
When individuals rooms aren't available, ICE separates detainees by group following exposure to someone with an infectious disease, said Cuccinelli. This could include asymptomatic detainees for the duration of the incubation period.
ICE has also made changes to its enforcement operations, legal and family visitation and detention operations due to Covid-19.