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PHR Statement on First Reported COVID-19 Death in ICE Custody

Responding to media reports of the first death of a detained immigrant in Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) custody from COVID-19, Dr. Ranit Mishori, senior medical advisor at Physicians for Human Rights and professor of family medicine at Georgetown University, said:

“This heartbreaking tragedy could have been prevented had U.S. immigration officials heeded the recommendations of medical experts and acted in time. Thousands of doctors, advocates, and even the former acting head of ICE have been sounding the alarm for months about the grave risks of immigration detention amid the COVID-19 pandemic. The government cannot say it did not know this would happen.

Meanwhile, more than 30,000 people are still being held in immigration detention centers, with no meaningful ability to practice social distancing or meticulous hygiene. If ICE wants this tragic COVID-19 death to be an outlier rather than the new normal, it must act now to release detainees on humanitarian and public health grounds. All people deserve to shelter in place with their families rather than be confined to the potential death traps of ICE detention facilities.”

Physicians for Human Rights (PHR) is a New York-based advocacy organization that uses science and medicine to prevent mass atrocities and severe human rights violations. Learn more here.

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