Today, new enforcement priorities under the Biden administration – set out in a memo issued by Acting Department of Homeland Security Secretary David Pekoske on January 20 — go into effect, marking a sharp reversal of a 2017 Trump directive under which virtually any undocumented immigrant was an ICE target.
In accord with this memo, dozens of community-based organizations, rapid response networks, and legal service providers have issued a letter to U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) officials in California, demanding the release of all immigrants in the state’s detention centers.
The DHS memo recognizes that the U.S. “is confronting the most serious global public health crisis in a century” and must focus its resources accordingly. As the advocates’ letter points out, “Since the pandemic’s inception, ICE has failed to follow public health guidance to protect the health and lives of people in its custody.” The result has been, as recognized in court decisions, massive outbreaks of COVID-19 in ICE detention centers.
The letter issues the following demands:
• Release ALL individuals in detention given the new priorities.
• Cancel all detainers or notification requests for currently incarcerated people who do not fall within the new priorities.
• Stop transferring our community members from prisons and jails to ICE custody. Transfers endanger public safety and are inconsistent with the new guidance.
Among the organizations issuing the letter are the ACLU Foundations of Northern California, San Diego and Imperial Counties, and Southern California; the California Collaborative for Immigrant Justice (CCIJ); Centro Legal de la Raza; the Immigrant Defenders Law Center; Jewish Family Service of San Diego; and the UFW Foundation. For a full list of partners endorsing this demand, please see the letter.