Spotlight

Immigrant Justice and the COVID-19 Pandemic

Amid the current public health crisis, the stakes for immigrants facing detention and deportation could not be higher. Immigrants of all statuses, including long-term permanent residents, refugees, Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) recipients, and those who are undocumented, have been on the front lines of the medical response and kept the U.S. economy running by continuing to produce and deliver food, clean hospitals, and perform other critical tasks.

Despite the pandemic, ICE enforcement has continued, with immigrants being placed in detention centers where COVID-19 outbreaks are occurring. In many of these settings, it is impossible to practice social distancing and basic hygiene, as soap and hand sanitizer are not readily accessible. Many lack access to an attorney who can help advocate on their behalf for access to health care or release to the community.

This page offers resources and recommendations for members of the public, advocates, attorneys, government officials, and other stakeholders to continue the fight for justice, dignity, and safety for immigrants during the pandemic.

Publications and Research

Blog Posts

Series: Covid-19

Without an attorney, I might still be confined in a detention facility with COVID-19

It could have been very bad for me when people started to get sick with coronavirus, but I had good lawyers to fight for me. When they told me I would get out, I was very nervous. I was shaking because I couldn’t believe what was happening. I was excited, but my body was shaking. Sometimes I can’t even believe that I am out, after 21 months. It fee ...

Blog Post
  • Paul, a NYIFUP client
July 09, 2020
Blog Post

Series: Covid-19

Vera’s New Prevalence Model Suggests COVID-19 is Spreading through ICE Detention at Much Higher Rates than Publicized

As of May 31, 2020, ICE reported testing 2,781 people in its custody; 1,461 positive cases were disclosed at just 61 of the more than 200 facilities it uses to detain people. ICE has not clarified whether the remaining tests are confirmed negative or still pending, meaning a minimum of 52 percent of people tested have received positive test results ...

Blog Post
  • Nina Siulc
    Nina Siulc
June 04, 2020
Blog Post

Series: Covid-19

Communities Need State and Local Deportation Defense Programs Now More Than Ever

Presently, the vast majority of people in immigration detention—70 percent—have no legal representation. This is because people facing deportation do not have the right to a public defender if they cannot afford one. And without legal representation, they face slim chances of being released from custody and remaining in the United States. With near ...

Blog Post
  • Melissa Garlick
    Melissa Garlick
May 12, 2020
Blog Post

Series: Covid-19

Facebook Post Put High School Student in a Detention Facility Now Struck by Coronavirus

In February 2018, Hernandez, upset about a change in location for her special education program, wrote, “I’m coming tomorrow morning and I’m going to shoot all of ya bitches,” on East High School’s Facebook page. She was charged with making a terroristic threat. She pled guilty to third-degree falsely reporting an incident, a misdemeanor offense, a ...

Blog Post
  • Erica Bryant
    Erica Bryant
April 28, 2020
Blog Post

Series: Covid-19

Unaccompanied Children Suffer as Hearings are Sped Up, Switched to Video During COVID-19 Crisis

Video teleconference (VTC) hearings allow unaccompanied children to participate in court proceedings without physically appearing in court. The children answer questions from a judge on a screen, who might be translated by an interpreter in a third location. Such hearings are commonplace in adult immigration proceedings, despite concerns about thei ...

Blog Post
  • Erica Bryant
    Erica Bryant
April 14, 2020
Blog Post

The Vera Institute of Justice is committed to driving concrete change and producing new insights to radically transform American justice, grounded in the values of human dignity, due process, and opportunity for everyone. Its Center on Immigration and Justice has a long track record of protecting the rights of immigrants in the United States, including expanding access to counsel and information for immigrants facing deportation, who do not have the right to a public defender if they cannot afford a lawyer.