ILRC: Trump Weaponizing COVID-19 to Carry Out Anti-Immigrant Agenda at Border

For Immediate Release: March 20, 2020
Contact: Arianna Rosales,

 ILRC: Trump Weaponizing COVID-19 to Carry Out Anti-Immigrant Agenda at Border
As Global Health Crisis Escalates, Trump Must Release Immigrants from Unsafe Detention Centers, Not Push Forward His Inhumane Immigration Agenda 

Today, the Trump administration officially announced that it will shut down the nation’s border to all individuals without “proper travel documentation… mostly but even beyond this global pandemic.” While COVID-19 was cited as the alleged reason for this decision, this is clearly an opportunistic and shameless attempt to further his attack on immigrants, namely Black immigrants and immigrants of color. Instead of politicizing and weaponizing a global health crisis, the administration should swiftly enact policy changes at its disposal right now, which could slow the spread of COVID-19.

During the press conference, Trump again used a racist term when referencing COVID-19. We condemn this intentional and flagrant effort to promote racism during an international health crisis of proportions we've never seen in modern history.  Efforts should be uniquely focused on containing COVID-19, not on furthering xenophobia or anti-immigrant political agendas. 

This announcement sidesteps the obvious: the federal government could instead welcome immigrants without detaining them. Like in jails and prisons, people in immigrant detention centers are much more vulnerable to COVID-19, as detention centers are both crowded and infamous for medical neglect so poor that it has resulted in death. These facilities are ill-equipped to handle a pandemic, and only subject those inside to further harm. However, as of yet, no announcement has been made regarding the tens of thousands of immigrants currently held in detention centers across the country. 

If the federal government were truly concerned about preventing the spread of COVID-19, it would both release those people detained in the facilities, as well as stop enforcement activities, which only funnel more people into detention. The administration’s recent announcement to limit enforcement falls dangerously short of what is required during this pandemic.  

Said Grisel Ruiz, Supervising Attorney at the Immigrant Legal Resource Center:

“The Trump administration’s plan to immediately turn away people at the border is completely inhumane. Instead of protecting vulnerable people, this action continues the administration’s barrage of racist attacks on people facing the greatest threats and hardships.

“This pandemic has made clear that our health is linked to the health of everyone around us, making it all the more important to protect the most vulnerable in our communities. Immigration detention has always been cruel and wholly unnecessary, but during this pandemic - when people around the world are being asked to socially distance - incarcerating people in overcrowded facilities is not only inhumane, but it is also counteractive to broader public health and for some will be commensurate to a death sentence. 

“This is not a time to increase racism, fear, separate families, waste resources, and engage in politically-motivated attacks. If the administration is serious about flattening the curve and stopping the spread of COVID-19, it must immediately reverse this politically-motivated policy change, suspend all immigration enforcement activities, stop the use of racist terms when referring to the virus, and release as many people as possible from all forms of incarceration.”