U.S. pandemic forces cruel choice on asylum seekers; says RLG Immigration Chair Darius Amiri.

(Disclosure: RLG represents asylum seeker Patricia Jimenez Gurrola.)

By Laura Gottesdiener | Reuters

MONTERREY, Mexico (Reuters) – In early June, asylum seeker Jose Munoz decided it was time to flee for his life – by getting deported from a Texas immigration detention center where coronavirus was sweeping through the population and going home to El Salvador.

As the number of COVID-19 cases rose in the Houston Contract Detention Facility – it has had at least 105, according to U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) data – Munoz said he had few ways to protect himself from exposure except for a cloth face mask. On June 1, there were 375 detainees housed in the facility, according ICE data.

Although at 19 he would not normally be at risk from complications from the respiratory illness caused by the novel coronavirus, Munoz worried his high cholesterol, a comorbidity found in some patients who died, made him vulnerable.

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“A person should not have to choose between pursuing their asylum application and risking getting infected with the COVID-19 virus. However, as this virus spreads through ICE detention centers like the one in Eloy, Arizona, that is exactly what we are seeing. Detainees like our client featured in this story with no criminal history and family ties to the United States should be released and allowed to pursue their legal claims for immigration relief rather than being detained and risking infection or death with each passing day.” ~Darius Amiri, Chair of the Immigration Department at Rose Law Group

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