Immigrant Communities Report Continued Harassment Despite Health Risks

Portland – Advocates from around Maine today urged immigration agencies to suspend all civil immigration enforcement activities in Maine, in order to protect people during the COVID-19 pandemic. According to the letter to the local Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) and Customs and Border Protection (CBP) offices, despite ICE’s avowed plan to “delay enforcement actions” during the public health crisis, federal immigration officials in Maine continue to target immigrants and refugees.

According to the letter, there is ample precedent for suspending immigration enforcement during public emergencies. The Department of Homeland Security suspended immigration enforcement in areas affected by Tropical Storm Florence in 2018, in advance of Tropical Storm Barry in 2019, and against evacuees fleeing the California wildfires the same year.

The full text of the letter is available here:

The following quotes can be attributed as noted:

Emma Bond, staff attorney, ACLU of Maine: “Attempting to arrest people for civil immigration violations undermines physical distancing. It also risks putting more people into detention facilities, where distancing is impossible. Government agencies should be doing everything they can to keep all people safe, and that includes suspending unnecessary interactions with people.”

Julia Brown, Outreach and Advocacy Coordinator, ILAP: “Continuing enforcement operations will exacerbate a chilling effect and prevent immigrants, regardless of status, from accessing medical services necessary to safeguard their health and well-being. Further, continued operations will inevitably further the spread of COVID-19.”

Mufalo Chitam, executive director, MIRC: “Enforcing civil immigration actions during a public health crisis at such an unprecedented time in our history, when the world as we have known it has changed, is inhumane. We strongly urge ICE to suspend its actions.”

Crystal Cron, president, Presente! Maine: "Permitting ICE operations to continue during this global crisis means allowing continued harm, but now with the added lethal element of the novel coronavirus. Prioritizing public health means protecting all of us regardless of citizenship status. Our community should not fear seeking testing, treatment, food or shelter. ICE must suspend all enforcement actions now."