According to data provided by the U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services, New Jersey holds almost one-third of all federal detainees infected with the coronavirus. This number makes it the state with the largest number of detainees affected by COVID-19.
The state keeps 16 of the 50 detainees who have the virus: seven in the Elizabeth Detention Center, five in the Hudson County Jail in Kearny, and two each in the Essex County Correctional Facility in Newark and the Bergen County Jail in Hackensack.
“Having large groups of people confined together under one roof puts detainees and detention center staff at greater risk and only further challenges our ability to defeat COVID-19,” said U.S. Sen. Robert Menendez, D-N.J., who last month asked the U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) to begin releasing non-violent prisoners in order to fight the spreading of coronavirus.
California is second with 10 detainees, all in a detention center in San Diego.
ICE is considering the release of those non-violent detainees who may be more vulnerable to become infected by the virus. This group would include elderly individuals, pregnant women, and detainees suffering from serious health conditions.
“While I’m encouraged that ICE has agreed to take these sensible steps, they need to complete their case-by-case reviews expeditiously to save lives,” Menendez said.
The Senator explained that 60 percent of the 38,000 people currently detained has no criminal convictions and that many of them were seeking asylum in the United States to avoid political persecution or torture if they were forced to return to their native countries.