House, Senate Democrats file bills that would halt deportations during pandemic

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Escobar says U.S. keeping migrants from accessing care, sending them back to countries with insufficient health resources

Guatemalans deported from the U.S., wearing a mask as a precaution against the spread of the new coronavirus enter at the site where they are being held in quarantine, in Guatemala City, Tuesday, June 9, 2020. The United States resumed deportation flights to Guatemala, nearly a month after the Central American country refused to accept them. (AP Photo/Moises Castillo)

EL PASO, Texas (Border Report) — Two House Democrats have filed a bill to halt deportations during the COVID-19 pandemic.

U.S. Rep. Veronica Escobar, D-Texas

The Immigration Enforcement Moratorium Act sponsored by U.S. Reps. Veronica Escobar, D-Texas, and Frederica Wilson, D-Florida, also calls for:

  • Halting apprehensions of non-citizens present in the U.S. during the pandemic.
  • Suspending in-person check-ins, service of notices to appear, and referrals for prosecution.
  • Providing processing and parole of individuals at the border who make claim for relief under U.S. immigration laws.
  • Suspending all in-person court proceedings, establishing a procedure to conduct custody determinations and providing hearings over the telephone for those who request it in writing.
  • Banning the use of federal funds to implement the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention order empowering automatic expulsion of asylum seekers and unaccompanied minors at the border.
U.S. Sen. Edward Markley, D-Mass.

The bill mirrors legislation proposed in the Senate by Sen. Edward J. Markey, D-Massachusetts, last month.

“The Trump administration is using the coronavirus economic and health crisis to further advance its anti-immigrant agenda by detaining, deporting and expelling immigrants, including vulnerable children, during a global pandemic,” Escobar said.

She said the Administration has used the pandemic to shut the border to asylum seekers and returning them to danger in their home countries. She added such practices spread fear in communities across the country and hurt the United States’ ability to combat COVID-19.

Markey agrees that is what’s happening.

“It is our responsibility to halt measures and policies that jeopardize our global health and prolong the crisis,” he said. “Other countries have already stopped deportations and have continued processing asylum seekers. The United States can and must do better.”

Escobar said the Trump administration’s hardline enforcement practices are discouraging migrants from accessing support services and care and that continued deportations risk spreading COVID-19 to countries with insufficient resources to fight the pandemic, such as Haiti, Guatemala, Jamaica, Mexico and Colombia. She said that, as of late April, people deported from the U.S. to Guatemala made up 20 percent of that country’s COVID-19 cases.

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