New York, NY—Only hours after reporting a positive case of COVID-19 among its staff, the immigration court on Varick street reopened with no warning. Advocacy groups are renewing their demand that Immigration Customs and Enforcement (ICE) release all detainees and immediately adopt policies in line with the recommendations of public health officials. The reopening of the Varick street court comes after reports of another positive case of COVID-19 at an immigration court in Elizabeth, NJ, which also reopened this morning without warning, and the first ICE detainee to test positive at the Bergen County Jail. Further alarming advocates, less than two weeks ago ICE transferred nearly 50 detainees from Bergen to the ICE detention center in Batavia, NY, where the immigration court remains open. This group of transfers likely included individuals who had been exposed to the individual who tested positive.
Following news of the Varick street court’s reopening, Steve Choi, the Executive Director of the New York Immigration Coalition, issued the following statement:
“For weeks, lawyers, judges, ICE agents, and advocacy groups have warned the Trump administration of the dangers of COVID-19 exposure in our immigration courts and detention centers. The two positive cases of the virus reported today are a direct result of the President’s refusal to heed those warnings. Trump’s obsessive desire to terrorize immigrants means more people have been unnecessarily exposed to this deadly pandemic, and their blood will be on his hands. Today, the New York Immigration Coalition is renewing its call that ICE immediately release all of its detainees now--the health of every American demands it.”