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ICE to halt most deportation efforts amid coronavirus

Immigration and Customs Enforcement said Wednesday that it will temporarily halt deportation efforts amid the coronavirus pandemic, except for those deemed a safety risk or under mandatory deportation order due to criminal history.

The delay is intended to help mitigate the spread of the virus and to encourage people to seek testing and treatment, ICE said in a statement.

“During the COVID-19 crisis, ICE will not carry out enforcement operations at or near health care facilities, such as hospitals, doctors’ offices, accredited health clinics, and emergent or urgent care facilities, except in the most extraordinary of circumstances,” the agency said. “Individuals should not avoid seeking medical care because they fear civil immigration enforcement.”

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The statement added the agency would seek alternatives to detention but didn’t say what might happen to the approximately 37,000 current immigration detainees, The Washington Post reported.

The agency said it would continue critical investigations into child exploitation, gangs, narcotics trafficking, human trafficking and terrorism.

Immigration advocates have urged Ice to release detainees who could be at a higher risk for contracting the virus due to cramped quarters, according to the Post.

As of Tuesday, no detainees had yet tested positive for the virus.

All immigration hearings have also been halted except for those already detained, according to The Post.

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“ICE’s highest priorities are to promote life-saving and public safety activities,” the statement added.

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