Boston (June 18, 2020) – With states continuing to experience alarming upticks in the number  of new coronavirus infections, Senator Edward J. Markey (D-Mass.) today introduced legislation to halt the Trump administration’s harmful immigration enforcement activities, including deportations, during the coronavirus pandemic to protect public health. Continued arrests and apprehensions discourage immigrant communities from accessing services necessary for their health and well-being and contribute to dangerous crowding in immigration detention centers. Deportations, particularly after prolonged detention in unsafe conditions, risk spreading coronavirus to neighboring countries, where the virus could devastate health systems and create untold harm. In late April, people deported to Guatemala made up 20 percent of all coronavirus cases in that country. Further adding to the harm the Trump administration has inflicted, a Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) order has fueled tens of thousands of unlawful expulsions in under three months, including more than 2,000 unaccompanied children. Conversely, as of the beginning of June, only four people have been allowed to seek refuge in the United States under this restrictive order.


Co-sponsoring the legislation are Senators Bernie Sanders (I-Vt.) Richard Blumenthal (D-Conn.), Elizabeth Warren (D-Mass.), and Kamala Harris (D-Calif,).


“The pursuit of immigration arrests, apprehensions, and deportations during this outbreak is antithetical to President Trump’s pledge to ‘combat and ultimately defeat the coronavirus’. His continued efforts to demonize, deport, and expel immigrants accelerates the spread of this virus in other countries and undermines our national interests,” said Senator Markey. “It is our responsibility to halt measures and policies that jeopardize our global health and prolong this crisis. The decisions we make today will determine the trajectory of this pandemic. Other countries have already stopped deportations and have continued processing asylum seekers. The United States can and must do better.”


A copy of the legislation can be found HERE.


Specifically, the Immigration Enforcement Moratorium Act would: 

  • Halt deportations of noncitizens during the coronavirus pandemic and provide for release on orders of supervision for people who have received removal orders to prevent prolonged post-removal-order detention;
  • Halt arrests and apprehensions of noncitizens physically present in the United State during the coronavirus pandemic;
  • Halt in-person check-ins, service of Notices to Appear, and referrals for 1325/26 prosecutions;
  • Provide for processing and parole of individuals at the border who make claims for relief under the immigration laws;
  • Suspend all in-person court proceedings, and, for detained individuals, establish a procedure for conducting custody determinations and provide for telephonic hearings provided the respondent requests such a hearing in writing; and
  • Prohibit federal funds being used to implement the CDC order powering automatic expulsions of asylum-seekers and unaccompanied children at the border.


“Fear of immigration enforcement has been deadly in the COVID-19 crisis, keeping many people from getting tested or seeking care until it was too late, and leading many more to suffer through their illness alone, with potentially serious consequences. This bill sends a clear message that human lives and public health always take priority over immigration matters. We appreciate Senator Markey’s leadership on this and other bills that reassert American values at a time of relentless attacks on immigrants and refugees,” said Eva Millona, Chief Executive Officer, Massachusetts Immigrant and Refugee Advocacy (MIRA).


“The Trump administration has recklessly continued to pursue immigration arrests, detention, and deportations despite clear public health risks, while citing specious public health justifications to expel asylum-seekers and unaccompanied children in clear violation of U.S. legal obligations. We welcome the introduction of this visionary bill, which protects human rights and preserves public health,” Charanya Krishnaswami, Americas Advocacy Director at Amnesty International USA. 


“AILA urges support for the Immigration Enforcement Moratorium Act, legislation that recognizes the stresses our nation is under during the pandemic and ensures immigration enforcement does not harm families and communities as we work together to confront the COVID-19 crisis. This bill recognizes that the pandemic has upended lives and livelihoods. It takes commonsense, rational actions to reduce harm to families and communities and ensures that immigration enforcement actions and immigration court operations meet the moment we are all in with smart and balanced measures,” Benjamin Johnson, Executive Director, American Immigration Lawyers Association (AILA).


“Amid a historic pandemic, current immigration enforcement activities in the United States – arrests, detentions, transfers, ICE check-ins, removal proceedings – endanger the health of people in the immigration system and the public at large. But the public health impacts of these politically-motivated policies reach far beyond United States borders. The Trump administration’s continued deportations export and compound the effects of COVID-19 on under-resourced health systems in Guatemala, El Salvador, Honduras, and elsewhere. To save lives and protect public health during the COVID-19 pandemic, the administration should listen to medical experts and immediately stop these potentially dangerous enforcement activities now,” Dr. Michele Heisler, Medical Director, Physicians for Human Rights.


“The United States is exacerbating the spread of COVID-19 and returning migrants to instability and danger with its ongoing expulsions and deportations. Travel is restricted worldwide and yet the United States continues to deport migrants who have been exposed to the virus, exporting COVID-19 to countries with fragile health systems. Latin America Working Group welcomes the Immigration Enforcement Moratorium Act and its call to temporarily halt immigration enforcement throughout the public health emergency including deportations, apprehensions, and stopping the unlawful expulsions from the border,” Daniella Burgi-Palomino, Co-director, Latin America Working Group.


The legislation is supported by nearly 70 national, state, and local organizations, including: Al Otro Lado, Alianza Nacional de Campesinas, American Friends Service Committee, American Immigration Lawyers Association, Amnesty International USA, Asylum Seeker Advocacy Project (ASAP), AsylumWorks, Bellevue Program for Survivors of Torture, Bend the Arc: Jewish Action, Cambridge Health Alliance, Center for Gender & Refugee Studies, Center for Human Rights & Constitutional Law, Center for Victims of Torture, Coalition for Humane Immigrant Rights (CHIRLA), Coalition on Human Needs, Columbia Law School Immigrants’ Rights Clinic, Detention Watch Network, Disciples Immigration Legal Counsel, Disciples Refugee & Immigration Ministries, Evangelical Lutheran Church in America, Families Belong Together, Farmworker Association of Florida, Florence Immigrant and Refugee Rights Project Freedom for Immigrants, FXB Center for Health and Human Rights at Harvard University, Haitian Bridge Alliance, Hope Border Institute, Human Rights First, Immigrant Service Providers Group/Health, Immigration Hub, Immigration Justice Task Force of First Parish in Concord, International Institute of New England, International Refugee Assistance Project, International Rescue Committee, Justice in Motion, Latin America Working Group (LAWG), Lutheran Immigration and Refugee Service, Massachusetts Jobs with Justice, Massachusetts Immigrant and Refugee Advocacy (MIRA) Coalition, National Council of Jewish Women, National Day Laborer Organizing Network *(NDLON), National Immigrant Justice Center, National Immigration Law Center, National Korean American Service & Education Consortium (NAKASEC), Neponset Health Center, NETWORK Lobby for Catholic Social Justice, NISGUA, Ohio Immigrant Alliance, Oxfam America, Physicians for Human Rights, RAICES, Refugees International, Rian Immigrant Center, Save the Children Action Network, Sisters of Mercy of the Americas Justice Team, Southern Poverty Law Center Action Fund, Sueños Sin Fronteras de Tejas, The Advocates for Human Rights, The Black Alliance for Just Immigration (BAJI), Unitarian Universalist Service Committee, United Stateless, United We Dream, Washington Office on Latin America, Witness at the Border, Women’s Refugee Commission, Workers Center of Central New York, and Young Center for Immigrant Children’s Rights.