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On March 16, two days after President Donald Trump declared the coronavirus outbreak a national emergency, Christina Brown, an immigration lawyer in Colorado, received a desperate call from one of her customers. Héctor was incarcerated in an immigration detention center in Aurora, Colorado. He had just learned that immigration and customs control were planning to deport him to Nicaragua.
“He panicked me because he heard he could be removed every day,” Brown says.
The week before Héctor’s call, two people in Colorado had died of Covid-19, and Brown himself had a fever and cough. Nevertheless, she continued to run her immigration office remotely as several of her clients fought against deportation.
While cities around the world block and countries issue emergency travel bans, the U.S. has continued to deport immigrants at a constant rate. Although ICE has released a statement stating that some arrests are reduced and “public security” risks are prioritized, the deportation machine is still in operation. Trials for non-detained immigrants have been put on hold, but despite unprecedented outcry from immigration lawyers, judges, and even ICE staff, the process of deportation for detained immigrants like Héctor continues daily.
When Brown called ICE to confirm that Héctor should be deported, ICE staff informed her that Héctor had actually been given a final removal order. Agents could put him on a plane to Nicaragua at any time. This flight would take Hector from the USA – wherever more than 31,700 people It has been confirmed that they have been infected with coronavirus so far – to Nicaragua, a country that only registered its first case on March 19. Despite several attempts by Central American countries to stop deportations to prevent the virus from spreading, the Trump administration has successfully been heavily armed at least one government continue to accept deportees.
“As far as [ICE] Enforcement seems to be moving things forward as if nothing had happened, ”says Brown. “It is really worrying.”
After calling ICE, Brown called Héctor and said she was working on an emergency application to try to delay his deportation. However, she told him that she would not come to visit him to prepare the case. Even if she were healthy, the risk of going to detention centers during the pandemic was still too high. She doesn’t visit any of her customers.