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Ilhan Omar is demanding a freeze on deportations

Jason Hopkins on March 20, 2020

Democratic Minnesota Rep. Ilhan Omar is leading the call for a complete freeze on immigration enforcement measures across the country, citing the coronavirus pandemic as the reason.

Omar and a group of 14 other Democratic congressmen issued a letter on Friday to acting Secretary of Homeland Security Chad Wolf, demanding that Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) suspend all deportations, freeze in-person immigration court proceedings, and provide a plan for the possible event of a COVID-19 outbreak in immigrant detention facilities.

Their letter came after ICE announced it was scaling back its enforcement efforts. The agency on Wednesday said it would begin focusing on individuals who pose “public safety risks.”

The Democratic lawmakers argued that the coronavirus outbreak gave reason for the U.S. government to cease immigration enforcement activities.

“Immigration detention facilities, even before the start of the COVID-19 pandemic, have been breeding grounds for illness,” the Democrats wrote. “For detainees who are immunocompromised or otherwise susceptible to the worst consequences of contracting COVID-19, holding them in detention may be literally a matter of life and death.”

The lawmakers also cited concerns about possibly deporting illegal aliens who carry coronavirus.

“Deporting people who may have been exposed to coronavirus to either countries that have few or no cases or to countries with weak health care infrastructure is an unacceptable risk to take,” they continued. “Many countries, including the United States, are implementing strict border controls during this pandemic, and we should make no exception for ICE Air and deportations.”

The Democratic lawmakers, however, are asking for a complete freeze on deportation proceedings. It’s not immediately clear if aliens accused or convicted of heinous crimes, such as rape or murder, are an exemption to their request.

Omar has long been a vocal opponent of ICE. The Minnesota congresswoman has called for the agency to be abolished, and she has also gone so far as to say the entire Department of Homeland Security should be defunded and that the U.S. government should stop detaining illegal aliens altogether.

Omar herself is reportedly under investigation by ICE for alleged marriage fraud. However, neither the agency nor the FBI has commented on the matter.

The letter on Friday was also signed by Reps. Rashida Tlaib, Joseph P. Kennedy, Raúl M. Grijalva, Barbara Lee, David E. Price, Scott Peters, Hank Johnson, Jr., Mark Takano, Judy Chu, Tony Cárdenas, Jan Schakowsky, Debbie Dingell, Eleanor Holmes Norton, and Mark Pocan.

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