The Center for Immigration Studies hosted a virtual panel discussion Monday, April 13, at 1 p.m. on U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) detention and whether the institutional conditions of detention centers necessitate the release of immigrant detainees due to the coronavirus and the safety, and legal implications of releases.
Center for Immigration Studies
Resident Fellow in Law and Policy
Center for Immigration Studies
Center for Immigration Studies
MARK KRIKORIAN: My name is Mark Krikorian. I am executive director of the Center for Immigration Studies, and we are holding a virtual panel discussion today on the issue of the detention of immigrants, immigration detention. This isn’t – this isn’t about people who happen to be immigrants who are in jail, but immigration-related detention; in other words, either by ICE or on behalf of ICE for people who are removable who may be in some kind of proceedings and they’re being detained. Maybe they’re going to be deported and they have been transferred from a state prison, for instance, and are being held.
The advocacy groups that are opposed to immigration enforcement have long objected to the very idea of detaining people for immigration purposes, saying that other means should be used – ankle bracelets or what have you, the honor system, something. But in the current situation with the spreading of this Wuhan virus causing illnesses across the country the anti-enforcement advocacy groups have made an even stronger case, saying that people in immigration detention are more liable to get the virus, to get ill, if they remain in detention rather than being released. And so there’s a push for the release of many, if not all people in immigration detention because of the virus, or at least using the virus as a pretext.
And so this is an important issue, and we’ve brought together several experts on this issue to talk about it.
OK, Art, why don’t you kick it off first?
ANDREW R. ARTHUR: As Mark had mentioned before, I was an immigration judge at the York County Prison in York, Pennsylvania, from 2006 until 2015. And for that reason I have a lot of background knowledge – practical knowledge on the detention of aliens in a county prison.
There are a couple important things to note. By law a lot of aliens are subject to mandatory detention while they’re actually in proceedings. Individuals who have entered the United States illegally and are subject to expedited removal and who claim credible fear are subject to – or are subject to mandatory detention. Aliens who are under the final order or removal and who are awaiting removal from the United States are subject to mandatory detention. And individuals who have committed certain crimes are subject to mandatory detention. That means that they cannot be released from custody under federal law.
In addition, if an alien is eligible for release from detention, he can petition or she can petition to the judge for a bond. The immigration judge can grant a bond to an alien after making two determinations. The first one is whether the alien poses a danger to the community. If the alien poses a danger to the community, then the alien cannot be released from custody. If the alien does not pose a danger to the community, then the question becomes whether the alien is a flight risk. If the alien is a flight risk, then the immigration judge either cannot set a bond or must set a bond high enough to ensure that the alien is actually going to appear for future court proceedings. So that’s the background.
At the York County facility, I would go through it every day. I would eat lunch there, I would work out in the fitness room, and I would walk through the facility every day. It was very clean. It was very well-kept. Aliens had a certain amount of freedom. Aliens were kept healthy, kept fed. They had sick call.
It’s important to note that under ICE standards, those aliens have access to medical care while they’re in ICE detention, be it a(n) official ICE detention facility, whether it is a contract facility, or whether it’s a county jail that is providing services to ICE for detention in return for a fee. And that really is what we’re talking about when we talk about this subject. Those aliens who are detained have access to medical care while they’re in detention. If they get sick, if they get the novel coronavirus COVID-19, then they have the opportunity to seek medical care. They’ll be placed in medical care.
Generally, a lot of these facilities have what are called zero-airflow rooms in which those individuals would be kept in order to isolate them away from the rest of the community. In addition, anybody who’s come in contact with those individuals under ICE protocols are themselves to be quarantined for a period of time to make sure that they themselves have not caught the illness. Finally, anybody who comes in contact with those individuals will also be screened to make sure that they do not have the novel coronavirus. So that really is what we’re talking about as a baseline issue.
MR. KRIKORIAN: Yeah. Art, if I could ask, the basic question, basically, is – well, no, there’s two questions. Are the aliens better off as far as exposure to the virus when they’re in detention or would they actually be better or worse off if they’re released? And the other is, what happens if they’re released? Do they come back for their hearings? Do they commit new crimes? So those are the kinds of things that, obviously, have to be considered. If maybe you could touch on the first one, are they really likely to be less exposed to the virus if they’re released into the public?
MR. ARTHUR: That really is the crucial issue when we’re talking about this because in the general population they’re going to interact with people. We can’t control who all they’re going to interact with during the time that they’re in the general population. When they’re in ICE detention we can significantly limit the interactions that they have, so we can actually keep them healthier when they are in ICE detention by limiting the access that they have to anyone.
And of course, you know, I have my mask here. I have my hand sanitizer because right now in our society there is a theory that anybody that you interact with may be carrying the novel coronavirus. Those individuals who are in ICE detention actually are only exposed to a limited number of individuals, and there are protocols in place to make sure that that limited number of individuals themselves are not carrying the novel coronavirus. So I think that that’s an important point.
The other thing is, Mark, that because they do have access to medical care 24/7, if there is an issue then they can quickly have that issue addressed. If they’re in the general population, if they have a primary-care physician, maybe they’ll go to the primary-care physician. Maybe they’ll go to a doc in the box. But the odds are they’re probably going to end up in an emergency room where they’re taxing the local health-care facilities even more. When they’re in ICE detention we both limit their exposure and we maximize their access to medical care.
MR. KRIKORIAN: Yeah. And the other question that relates directly to this Bristol County issue – and hopefully we’ll be able to get the sheriff on to talk about it, too – but your angle is – and we’re going to move to the sheriff as soon as I ask this, but this is something that is probably in your bailiwick. Because if somebody’s supposed to be detained – federal law requires it – how can a judge stay, well, who cares, and I’m going to order them released anyway?
MR. ARTHUR: The only authority that federal judges have with regard to that is release on habeas corpus or on constitutional grounds. Most circuits that have reviewed this have said that habeas is not an appropriate vehicle for the conditions of confinement, and that’s really what we’re talking about –
MR. KRIKORIAN: Right.
MR. ARTHUR: – because a lot of these claims are they’re in a large population of people, you’re not going to be – (audio break) – habeas is appropriate for that. But generally, absent some sort of constitutional violation that’s going to seriously impact the health or lead to the death of an individual, most courts don’t recognize habeas over that.
So there’s a constitutional claim with respect to the conditions of confinement, and that certainly is something that judges can decide upon. But a lot of these judges have taken that extra step to release people who are at high risk based on their own determination, perhaps based on some sort of medical opinion. But habeas is supposed to be limited. It’s not supposed to be a general catch on I can release anyone that I want rule.
MR. KRIKORIAN: Can you – what was some of the examples of cases that you dealt with as a judge in the detention center you were in, in York, Pennsylvania? Were there issues of detainees being released because of conditions or people trying to get them released because of their conditions?
MR. ARTHUR: Generally, the only people that I saw who were successful in habeas were individuals who actually had claims that they were erroneously detained, that they should have received a bond hearing and didn’t. But even then there weren’t a wide range of habeas orders that were issued.
MR. KRIKORIAN: And what is the – what was – did you have any experience with recidivism with regard to people who were released? In other words, did you see people back in detention who had been released before, whether you had anything to do with the release or not? Was this something that you had – you know, ever saw?
MR. ARTHUR: Yeah. Unfortunately, there were. There were individuals that I ordered released that I then saw again. There were individuals that ICE had ordered released that I saw again. Recidivism is an issue with respect to criminal aliens. I mean, the simplest way to put it is criminals commit crimes and there is a high recidivism rate for alien criminals. So even if you want to, you know, conclude or argue that aliens illegally present in the United States are less likely to commit crimes – and of course, that’s an open question – the fact is most alien criminals do actually commit additional crimes. And that was reflected in the ICE ERO workforce report for 2019, where they talked about the number of different times that aliens who were in detention had committed.
MR. KRIKORIAN: OK. Good. The final question I’d – from me on this is, one reason – one concern about release is that either they will be less or more likely to be exposed to the virus. The other concern is, will they show up for their proceedings? Because –
MR. ARTHUR: There are three outcomes that would occur if anyone is released from custody under one of these orders. One is that they will – there are three scenarios that will exist if anyone is released from custody because of COVID-19. One is they won’t catch COVID-19 and they won’t commit another crime. The second is that they will catch COVID-19 and they’ll then tax the local health-care system. And the third is that they will commit another crime. So that really is the biggest issue.
Courts should be focusing more on: Are they subject to detention under law? Do they pose a danger to the community? If there are issues with respect to the condition of confinement, those are things that courts can order that there be different conditions. But release shouldn’t be one of them.
MR. KRIKORIAN: What is ICE’s next step if it releases people? Because they have released some people. And then what? In other words, if they don’t show up for their hearings, assuming immigration hearings start up again in their area, what does ICE then do about it? I mean, do these people become priorities for apprehension, or what?
MR. ARTHUR: If the alien has a criminal record, then they will become a priority for apprehension. But it’s a very strong possibility that they’re not going to be able to locate them. And of course, they’re going to have to locate them either on the street or at their place of business, which poses a risk to the public, poses a risk to the alien, and poses a risk to the ICE officer on the, you know, chance that those individuals will resist arrest – will run out into the community, will fight – or that somebody else is going to attempt to help them resist arrest. And that’s a very significant issue.
MR. KRIKORIAN: Several people have asked – we have a question from an immigration attorney, for instance, and this has been an issue – that ICE is, you know, callous or what have you, doesn’t care if people are getting the virus. But isn’t it true that if the virus were to spread in an ICE detention center the ICE employees, the ICE agents themselves, are going to be exposed to it? So even in a completely cynical point of view, it would seem to me ICE has a very strong interest in doing whatever it can to limit the spread of the virus in these detention centers even if this cartoon, Snidely Whiplash view of ICE were true, which clearly isn’t. But if it’s – you know, if – even if it were true, obviously, ICE is not going to allow this virus to spread if they can help it, right?
MR. ARTHUR: Yeah. I mean, ICE has every reason to protect their own employees. They have every incentive to protect the aliens. And the groups that run these private facilities and localities that provide detention space also have an incentive to limit the spread of COVID. They have an incentive to protect their own employees, they have an incentive to protect the aliens, and they have an incentive to be able to continue detention of these aliens. If there’s an outbreak, you’re going to have to isolate everybody and not allow anybody else in.
So if you are a private company that’s running one of these detention facilities, you’re going to want to make sure that the protocols are followed to the word. You’re going to want to make sure that everything is clean as possible, that soap and water is available in accordance with the protocols, that hand sanitizer is available, and that the number of people who actually have access to these aliens is limited, and that anybody who does have access to these aliens is actually screened ahead of time, because they want to continue that business of detention. And I’m not talking about business in a big-B term; I’m talking about detention is absolutely crucial for the immigration system, so they’re going to want to make sure that it continues to be a viable option for ICE to use.
So everybody in the process, from the detainee to the correctional officer or the detention officer to the medical staff, have a very vested interest in making sure that any outbreak is addressed right away, that outbreaks are minimized, and that the hygiene standards are met so that that detention can continue.
MR. KRIKORIAN: Good. Thank you. OK. Well, Dan, then, why don’t you tell us something about these national detention standards that INS – that ICE, rather, excuse me, requires for all detention of aliens, whether they hold them or whether they’re on contract?
DAN CADMAN: Well, I’m not – regrettably, I was unable to hear some Art’s audio feed, so I’ll apologize ahead of time if I’m being redundant. But the medical standards that are applied to immigration detainees are pretty rigorous. And they’re not just in accordance with the National Detention Standards but they meet with, you know, National Correctional Association standards as well, which is the standard that’s used, for instance, in the sheriff’s jail.
And as I did hear Art mention earlier, one of the things that does happen when they’re released is that if they are – you know, if they do contract the virus, they are going to tax the local system in ways that they don’t if they’re kept in detention. And while that may not seem like a lot, let me put it in a – in a really harsh context here. Doctors throughout the country have said that they are so stressed in their systems that they may have to make hard choices about who to let live and who to let die. Now, if a doctor is confronted with a young released detainee and your elderly grandfather, and the doctor makes his decision to work on the young released detainee in lieu of your grandparent because he’s not going to put into any kind of context that young detainee’s immigration status, how are you as a citizen going to feel to think that someone who was ordered released by a federal judge someplace gets preferential treatment over your elderly parent or grandparent? Probably not too well. So, you know, while there’s a superficial claim to be made, I think it doesn’t stand up to the light of day.
MR. KRIKORIAN: (In progress following break) – get the – I could ask the sheriff to sort of tell us what’s going on with the ICE detainees he has in his custody and there’s a lawsuit going on. If you could kind of introduce us to what’s going on there, Sheriff Hodgson.
SHERIFF THOMAS HODGSON: Well, thank you. Yeah.
First of all, in this past week we’ve had, I believe, 45 who have been ordered released back into our neighborhoods here and who knows where else beyond Bristol County. But the fact of the matter is that, as Andrew and Dan have both said, the question is arisen about whether or not they’re safer in the prison versus out of the prison. And the truth of the matter is, we have no COVID-19 cases in Bristol County.
And Dan was just speaking about the whole point that when we – when we deal with these protocols, they have to be very strict protocols in place. We’ve been dealing with them since H1N1, the SARS virus. We stopped all visits in our facility a while ago. We don’t allow any vendors in. All of our staff have to have their temperature taken before they enter our facility. We sanitize all the units at least three times a day, wiping down doorknobs in addition to the spraying of the units. We have medical staff that have the different scenarios in place for protocols in the event we had somebody that did test positive. We have a negative-pressure chamber that that person would be isolated in. We’re only at 56 percent capacity at our facility and we have plenty of room if we had more than one case to do more isolations, to do more quarantines if we need to.
But the fact of the matter is that this judge is allowing people with serious, serious criminal histories to be released under this notion that perhaps they might catch the COVID-19 virus. And most people know that people who are here illegally don’t have a regular doctor. They don’t have medical support with a medical plan. So the first place they’re going to go is going to be an emergency room, where good luck given the current situation with COVID-19 of getting any kind of attention at a(n) emergency room.
The other problem is that many of these people don’t have jobs, so how are they going to survive? There’s only one way you could survive if you need money, and I think we all know the answer to that. In addition to which a number of these people could be involved – 80 percent, for example, in our overall facility here have drug-related issues. So if that’s the case and they’re going to out into the community, they go out there with a compromised immune system. When they start feeding their drug habit they now have impaired judgment, which means they’re going to be walking into stores and coming up to people without any discipline or regard or awareness of the fact that they may now be carrying and spreading it to other people. And in the event any one of them overdoses, of course, the emergency medical people and our police officers will have to respond to that incident and administer NARCAN.
We’ve been worried and concerned in law enforcement and the emergency medical first responders of ingesting one particle of fentanyl. Now they’ve got to worry about being exposed to COVID-19 with people who never should have been released because they, frankly, are safer inside our prison than they would be on the outside. As I said, we have no cases of COVID-19 and this judge still claims under humanitarian initiative that they possibly could contract it, that therefore they should be allowed out into the community with no regards for the threat to the people for their public safety and for their public health, those being the people who are law-abiding citizens who live on the outside of our facilities.
So the fact that we have the protocols in place, we have no cases since the beginning of this pandemic within our detainees or our inmate population, what about the non-detainees? Are they – I mean, there’s two in a cell. The fact is, they’re locked in a facility where they have expectations/schedules/protocols. Imagine when they get outside, have nowhere to go and no restrictions, how quickly they’re going to meander into people’s neighborhoods, homes, or what have you.
So this whole notion really, frankly, is baseless as far as I’m concerned in our situation. We know who all the people are in our population that may have some compromised health issue, whether it’s diabetes or some other thing. We know each and every one, and our medical staff are on top of these things. So the idea of, again, releasing people into our communities to create a greater threat and a risk for public-health concerns and their safety is, in my view, unconscionable and shouldn’t be happening.
MR. KRIKORIAN: So, in a sense, the aliens themselves are better off in detention. As you suggested also, officers who might have to arrest them on the street don’t have to deal with that if they’re in detention.
But specifically, I thought – well, I wondered if you could give us a little more detail on what the criminal history of some of these people are. You had said that most of them have some kind of drug issues, but what are some of the specific criminal histories of people who are going to be released into, you know, the communities in Bristol County?
SHERIFF HODGSON: Well, it isn’t just the criminal histories of those who are going to be released; it’s also the criminal history of those who have already been released. We have people who have – who were either charged or convicted who’ve been released with charges such as crimes against children, assault. And these are serious, serious crimes that – (audio break) – with that we’re now releasing into the community. And these are people who have shown that they can’t follow the law to begin with, never mind when they – when they violated our immigration laws came here and then started committing crimes. And so there is a pattern, and it’s a clear pattern that likely will continue, because they will be out there free to roam in our neighborhoods with these past incidents that they’ve been involved with.
And let me just add one more thing, if I – if I may, Mark. Keep in mind, too, that a number of these individuals were issued final removal orders, which meant they were just simply getting ready to be sent back to their country, who now are going to be out there roaming free in our communities. And the question that many people ask is, well, are they going to turn themselves in after the COVID-19 incident is over? And the answer is, no, of course not. And not only that; a number of these individuals who were released by this judge without any kind of restraint – i.e., the, you know, bracelet, so GPS bracelet to monitor where they are, what have you. The recent cases that he just released, about the last couple of days, he did say that they could have a bracelet on. If ICE wanted to have those he had already released, which were somewhere closer to I think 26 or 28 or something without any kind of monitoring of a GPS bracelet, well, ICE could put monitoring bracelets on them. The problem, though, was the judge said you cannot order them to come to you to get those bracelets; you have to go find them and put the bracelets on them.
On top of that, which is important for the viewers to know and the listeners, is that having a GPS bracelet on your ankle is not going to guarantee that you’re not going to cut the bracelet off. Many of them do. They cut the bracelet off, and all the bracelet now tells you is where they aren’t, not where they are. And so if you really believe somebody belonged in the community, why would you feel – and they were safe to be there and weren’t going to harm people – why would you even bother with a bracelet?
But the truth is this is the – this is sort of the nonsense that goes on when judges go beyond understanding the protocols, the operations, the outcomes with individuals who have criminal histories that are going to go back out and do the same thing. We know those things because we work with these people day in and day out. And judges ought not to be going out there just saying under the possibility that somebody could contract the virus that, therefore, you know what, we’re just going to let you out, we just don’t want to take that chance.
MR. KRIKORIAN: The Boston Globe said that some hundred-plus members of the – of the people you had detained in your facility – 111 is what they had said – had not been convicted of a violent crime, and that at least 56 hadn’t been convicted of any crime. So are those people, in fact, not criminals, or had they just not graduated to actually being convicted of a crime yet?
SHERIFF HODGSON: There are a number of these people who they show no criminal history but, in fact, have criminal histories. The Washington Times just reported on that today. I don’t know what these attorneys are talking about with regards to that. The majority of our people have these criminal histories that are in our facility. And so if ICE has brought them in, I can assure you ICE believes that they are a threat to our communities and that they need to be held and be brought before the immigration court.
So some of them have cases that are pending that are outside of our jurisdiction but have not been adjudicated yet. But the fact of the matter is these are people who are charged with criminal – with criminal activity or people who have already been convicted of crimes. So these civil defense attorneys, frankly, I don’t know what numbers they’re quoting from, but we have all of the backgrounds on these individuals, each and every one of the 45, and we know where they – what they’ve done and where they’ve done it.
MR. KRIKORIAN: OK. And the interesting thing, of course, is, as you may have suggested, The Washington Times wrote today on this issue that ICE brought them in, took them into detention because they believe they have some kind of threat to the community anyway. So I think this really is a kind of misnomer where people who haven’t been convicted of a crime are somehow considered to be OK when, in fact, as Art has suggested or you’re – especially now, when they’re detaining fewer people, they’re actually – they kind of raised the bar for who they’re going to – whom they’re going to detain in the first place. Sheriff Hodgson, if you could just give us some ideas or examples, if any come to you, of what has happened in the past when judges have ordered release of people – whether they’re ICE detainees or not, but people who were released and then, you know, became recidivists; in other words, committed new crimes. Are there specific examples like that that you all either have dealt with directly or have experience with in your area?
SHERIFF HODGSON: Well, sure. Let me give you – let me give you one recent case where a young woman who had a 2-year-old child from New Bedford, Massachusetts, her father had been deported and had returned to the U.S. three times. He was – he was charged the time here first before he was deported 10 years, I believe, for assault with intent to murder. He came back on three different occasions afterwards and he actually, after the third time, on Father’s Day I believe it was a year or two ago, he actually – his daughter called him and said: Dad, I’m not going to be with you on Father’s Day because I want to be with my boyfriend, but I’ll see you the day after Father’s Day; we’ll get together. Her father didn’t like that, so her father drove over to where she lived, in an apartment building, parked in the parking lot, waited for her to come home from the grocery store. She stepped out of her car, and he walked over and shot and killed her. So we not only have angel moms and dads; we now have angel children.
This is – these individuals who have these established crime histories – drugs, dealing fentanyl, trafficking, sex trafficking – they’re right back out there doing the exact same thing over and over again. And again, keep in mind these individuals don’t have jobs. They’re looking for ways to make money to continue in their involvement here in the United States, whether it’s through drug trafficking, sex trafficking, or their just dysfunctional criminal behavior that they commit against innocent people. So these are individuals who are going to repeat themselves, not in every case but in many of the cases, and we just can’t have that. We owe it to the people in our country to make sure that they’re safe.
We’re getting ready to release today – it’s just gone out in the press release – an alert system where we will have – every day now we are going to release what we call the prisoner release alert, and it’s going out to all the media outlets and to the people of our communities to let them know that these are the kinds of crimes that have been committed by the individuals that are being released every day by this judge. And our first one’s coming out with a whole host of, obviously, cases of these individuals now that have been released, and there will be some more because we’re doing 10 more today to add to the total of the 45. So there will be more coming out. And every time the judge releases this – these individuals, we’re going to be posting the crimes that they’ve committed so that the people in the community, who have a right to know what kind of dangers and risks are coming at them, will have that opportunity. And I’m going to be encouraging sheriffs all over the nation to do the same thing. It’s the right thing to do and the people have a right for us to fulfill our obligation to do all we can to keep them safe.
MR. KRIKORIAN: OK. Well, thank you. Maybe I’ll go to Dan Cadman now because he’s had – he was – had 30 years of experience in ICE and INS before that, some of which was dealing with people in detention centers. And so my question there is: What are some of the recidivism examples that you’ve seen of people who were released from civil detention during INS or under ICE who went on to commit other – you know, other crimes that wouldn’t have been possible had they been kept in detention?
MR. CADMAN: Well, I guess the way I have to answer that is this. Keep in mind that a significant number of those people that are in immigration detention are there because they were criminals in the first place, so they’ve already shown a proclivity to violate not just the immigration laws but any laws, most specifically serious criminal laws. That’s going to show up in a variety of ways, whether it’s assault with intent to murder, homicide, you know, sexual offenses against children, rape, as the sheriff said. These are not outside the norm. They are, sadly, all too common. And I think anyone who has tracked what has happened, for instance, with sanctuary cities in the last few years, where the sanctuary jurisdictions keep these people outside the reach of ICE and let them go instead of passing them along to ICE agents, shows with great regularity that when individuals aren’t taken into custody promptly by ICE from the police authorities or the state correctional authorities, anything can happen and all too often horrible, tragic things do happen. It’s just the harsh reality.
MR. KRIKORIAN: OK. And the – Sheriff, if I could go back to you, you had mentioned that you’re, you know, posting the information about these people that are being released online, but also that you’re encouraging other sheriffs to take part. Are you getting – what kind of response are you getting from other sheriffs around the country? I know that you and others have worked together on immigration issues in the past – there’s a whole group of sheriffs who work on this – and I was wondering what kind of response. Have you heard of sheriffs in other states that are, you know, trying to a similar thing that you’re doing in your county?
SHERIFF HODGSON: Well, we’re just announcing this today and we’re going to be – I spoke to the Massachusetts sheriffs this past Friday. A number of them were very anxious to get a hold of this and start looking at it. Interestingly, in Plymouth County, Massachusetts, they just announced today this – civil rights or civil liberties attorneys have now filed a class-action suit against Plymouth, who also has an immigration detention facility, and they’ll be coming at that fast and furious as well.
But I have talked to some of my colleagues, one of my colleagues in North Carolina. We’re just getting this launched. And I’m going to continue to reach out to the sheriffs who have been part of this collaboration for a long time and ask them to spread the word to as many sheriffs as possible because this is something that the American people have an absolute right to know as to what’s going on, not only for their own protection but to raise the awareness to the elected officials about these policy issues that are really of grave concern to them.
MR. KRIKORIAN: OK. Now, if Art – I wanted to go back to Art briefly here because it seems to me that there’s a role – I mean, the sheriff’s talked about what he’s doing at his level and working with other sheriffs, but are there changes that ICE can make, policy changes that either ICE or maybe at the congressional level – but presumably ICE would be more likely to get some policy changes – to anticipate and maybe try to head off these efforts to release people from immigration detention? In other words, are there policy issues that can help the sheriff and people in similar situations in dealing with these kind of detention matters?
MR. ARTHUR: I think that the best thing that ICE can do is a lot of transparency. If ICE is very clear about what’s going on in its facilities, very clear about the steps that it’s taking to ensure the safety and hygiene of the detainees, to ensure that they are protected against the novel coronavirus, those are all steps that ICE can take in order to, you know, put the sheriffs in a better position with respect to this.
I also think that the same is true with respect to its policies generally. ICE should really be out ahead of the curve on these issues so that it can, you know, let the public be aware of what’s going on. I mean, this is something that is impacting every American, every American household. We’re all under restrictions. So ICE can let the public know what it’s doing and should promote its protocols; should, you know, talk about what it’s doing; should be very transparent about any sort of transmission that it has and the steps that it’s taking to ameliorate that, to get ahead of the curve and get ahead of the story.
MR. KRIKORIAN: Yeah. And in mentioning, you know, ICE’s role in getting information out, I just wanted to make sure we got a plug in for an office called VOICE at the – at ICE, which is supposed to be literally a voice for victims’ assistance. And just to get a plug in, they have a phone number that victims of illegal-alien crime can call into. It’s 855-488-6423. That’s the VOICE office within ICE. It’s basically a victims – kind of a victims-advocate office. And unfortunately, from some of these releases there may actually be victims.
If I could just ask a last question. You’ve been very generous with your time, Sheriff Hodgson. Has there been any political pushback that you’ve experienced from your – whatever the form of government is there, the supervisors maybe at the state level or the town or county level, in – with regard to detention? In other words, is this effort, this lawsuit that the advocacy groups have filed against your corrections center, has it been either helped or has it caused others to criticize the county’s role in helping ICE in detention of illegal immigrants?
SHERIFF HODGSON: Well, it’s funny you should ask that question. I received a letter from the Massachusetts congressional delegation – the entire delegation, both Senate and members of Congress – and effectively it was clearly politically motivated. They targeted Bristol County, suggesting that some detainees had said that there wasn’t enough soap, that our food was bad, that they were threatened with the COVID-19 virus, and on and on and on. And sadly, the letter suggested that both myself, my staff, and ICE would not – would potentially not be testing anyone for COVID-19 because it might reveal a positive reading, which I thought was the most outrageous and, sadly, politically-driven comment by members of Congress. And they ought to be ashamed of themselves to suggest something like that.
We’re professionals in our field. We deal with these things day in and day out. And they have, like so many others, chosen to use this pandemic, sadly, as a foundation to continue launching this progressive agenda to release ICE detainees and not hold people accountable – i.e., the people who chose to violate our immigration laws – and instead, you know, put the onus on the law-abiding citizens at the expense of these people who otherwise should have been held accountable but are not.
And again, these members of Congress ought to be ashamed of themselves. I responded to them and told them so. It is these members of Congress who, frankly, have caused our detention facilities to be as full as they are because they’ve, over the years, for 25 years I’ve been dealing with this – for nearly 24 years I’ve been dealing with immigration reform and watched while Congress did nothing other than encourage more and more people to come here and send the message that, look, we’ll do everything we can to protect you through sanctuaries, through our continued advocacy to try to suggest that you should be a special group of people in the United States that don’t have the follow the laws that the American people do. And it’s outrageous.
MR. KRIKORIAN: Thank you. It’s almost two now and I want to respect people’s time, so I want to wrap this up. Thank you very much, Sheriff Hodgson, for taking time out. As we had said, there’s a story in The Washington Times today for people who want some more information about what’s going on in there. WashingtonTimes.com has a story on this issue. And both Dan Cadman and Art Arthur have pieces on our website relating to this broader issue of detention of people, ICE detention in this pandemic situation. That’s all on our website at CIS.org, along with all of our other information.
And I appreciate everybody’s attention and hope you’ll join us next time for our next virtual panel discussion. Thank you very much. And wash your hands.