Democratic New York Rep. Grace Meng called on Immigration and Customs Enforcement to release older illegal immigrants being detained to mitigate coronavirus exposure.
“It would be a prudent course of action for ICE to take steps now to minimize the number of detainees in your facilities,” Mengsaidto acting ICE Director Matt Albence on Wednesday during a House Appropriations Subcommittee on Homeland Security.
Albence disagreed with that assessment and argued that ICE is capable of handling detainees with contagious diseases and has “extensive experience” doing so.
“At the height of last year’s border surge, up to 6,000 people were quarantined with mumps, measles, and other highly contagious diseases,” he said.
“The people we have in detention are public security risks,” he added.
The coronavirus, which originated in China, hasinfectedover 120,000 people and killed almost 4,600.
Meng also called on ICE to stop enforcing immigration laws and cease conducting raids until after the 2020 census process ends due to concerns that illegal immigrants would be frightened.
“Is there any possibility to consider halting raids and making any public statements … and halting them so that we can pause such enforcement efforts in our communities so that Census Bureau won’t be seen as coordinating with law enforcement?” the congresswomanasked.
“First, our officers are clearly marked to define who they are,” Albence said. “There should be no confusion with regard to who we are when we are doing an enforcement action.”
“I’m sure the census individuals have certain IDs they’re presenting when they go up to a door, saying, ‘This is a census worker. This is who I am.’ So, I don’t really know whether there should be any confusion with regard to what we’re going to do,” he added.
Albence then told the congresswoman that many of the detainees being held by ICE are accused of violent crimes and it isn’t feasible to stop apprehending them simply because of the census.
“When you look at the public safety threats, and the bad people that we are arresting, we’re certainly not in a position where I can say, ‘We’re going to stop enforcing the immigration laws so that the census can be done,'” he said. “That means that murderers, rapists, human traffickers, gang members alike are going to be able to walk with impunity among us.”
“That’s our job to get them off the street, and we do it everyday.”