Calls for ICE to scale back enforcement efforts during coronavirus crisis

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WASHINGTON (NEXSTAR) — As the coronavirus pandemic continues, recent enforcement actions by Immigration and Customs Enforcement, as well as requests for protective gear desperately needed by medical professionals, have sparked controversy. 

Some think it’s time ICE scale back its operation until the coronavirus subsides. 

As hospitals struggle to get personal protective equipment, Senator Kamala Harris, D-Calif., says resources are being wasted on immigration enforcement. 

“It’s just a bad use of limited resources,” Sen. Harris said. 

After ICE requested 45,000 N95 masks for its agents, Sen. Harris pushed back. 

ICE has since amended that request. 

Now Sen. Harris is demanding the agency scale back raids. 

“We should have priorities that are not about enforcement and raids on those communities,” she said. “We, right now, are strapped for resources.”

Congresswoman Norma Torres, D-Calif., says beyond raids, more ICE enforcement requires more protective equipment inside federal prisons, which means less for hospitals and medical centers. 

“Here is Department of Homeland Security trying to secure N95 masks … to continue to incarcerate families and hold them,” Rep. Torres said. 

But Numbers USA, an organization that supports limiting both legal and illegal immigration, says the work ICE does, just like local police is essential, even during a pandemic.

“We are supplying these supplies to law enforcement officers,” said Chris Chmielenski with Numbers USA. “I don’t see why Immigration Customs Enforcement should be any different.”

Chmielenski says for now ICE is only conducting raids on violent offenders. 

He says lawmakers calling for ICE to stop are politicizing the crisis. 

“They’re just using this pandemic as another reason to push their anti-enforcement agenda,” Chmielenski said. 

Chmielenski says the protective equipment ICE agents require makes up a small fraction of our national demand. 

This morning, ICE sent out a statement saying due to COVID-19, the agency released 693 offenders from federal prisons who are considered at high risk of illness. 

The agency didn’t answer questions about scaling back raids during the pandemic.

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