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Immigrants Jailed by ICE Are Winning Court Battles to Get Free

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By the time the coronavirus pandemic reached a crisis level in the United States in March, José Velásquez had already spent almost 900 days in Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) detention. A Guatemalan asylum seeker, Velásquez had celebrated his 18th and 19th birthdays behind bars, and, as the pandemic worsened, he worried about making it to his 20th. Over the course of two years in the notorious Adelanto detention center in California, the teenager had developed serious hypertension, a condition that put him at high risk of dying if he caught COVID-19. Fearing for his safety in the cramped conditions of the detention center, his attorneys requested ICE consider paroling him in light of the pandemic. (Velásquez had never been accused of a crime and had legally asked for asylum.) ICE refused, even as prisons and jails across the state released prisoners to prevent outbreaks behind bars.

“They’re basically sentencing people to death sentences for breaking immigration laws,” said Lindsay Toczylowski, the executive director of Immigrant Defenders Law Center (also known as ImmDef), a California-based asylum organization. Toczylowski has been representing Velásquez as an asylum attorney for two years.

As the pandemic has entrenched itself across the United States, a powerful movement has risen to free people in ICE detention. Rallying around the motto “#FreeThemAll,” organizations like ImmDef, the American Civil Liberties Union and RAICES have joined with other movements to free people from criminal imprisonment as well immigration detention centers. Across the country, activists have surrounded ICE detention centers in cars and held virtual rallies online — but some of the most robust organizing has taken........

© Truthout