At least 250 immigrants with criminal histories were released by Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) following a coronavirus-related order from the Central District of California last week.
In order to halt the spread of COVID-19 infections, U.S. Judge Terry Hatter required ICE to either deport or release detainees at the Adelanto ICE processing center in Southern California.
“Despite requests to transfer detainees to alternate locations, U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) has complied with the mandated reduction to the overall detainee population at the Adelanto ICE Processing Center in Adelanto, California, which has resulted in the release of dangerous criminal aliens into various communities,” according to a statement posted on the agency’s website.
Those released had criminal histories that included assault with a deadly weapon, battery, child cruelty, contempt/violating a protected order, domestic violence, disorderly conduct, driving under the influence (DUI), fraud, hit and run, grand theft, possession of a controlled substance, prostitution, and sexual offenses including lewd/lascivious acts with a child.
ICE strongly opposed the order, stating that it’s a decision “the agency continues to warn could lead to unnecessary victimization by recidivist criminals.”
The forced reduction was completed on October 27. The current population at the Southern California facility is 465.
“While opponents who continuously seek to discredit the agency might otherwise mislead the public to believe that those in detention pose no risk to public safety, nothing could be further from the truth,” said Tony H. Pham, ICE’s Senior Official Performing the Duties of the Director. “ICE has complied with this overreaching court order; however, the public should know that the ruling undoubtedly places them at greater risk.”
The decision to release detainees at the Adelanto ICE facility reflects similar moves seen throughout the United States in the era of COVID-19. The Los Angeles Times reported that California has accelerated the release of thousands of prisoners, including one convicted murderer. According to the New York Post, dozens of prisoners in New York City who were released went on to commit more crimes, with over 50 re-entering jail as a result.
Among the nearly 730 migrants at Adelanto, over 85 percent had pending criminal charges or convictions. At least 162 had tested positive for COVID-19, Business Insider reported. ICE said that it implemented “an aggressive inspections program for its detention centers” and followed CDC guidelines for combating the virus’ spread.
“As an added precautionary measure for communities,” ICE’s statement said. “No detainee was released until officials established a high degree of certainty that they did not pose a COVID-19 public health risk.”