Center for American Progress

RELEASE: DHS Must Suspend Certain Immigration Enforcement Practices During the Coronavirus Outbreak, New CAP Column Says
Press Release

RELEASE: DHS Must Suspend Certain Immigration Enforcement Practices During the Coronavirus Outbreak, New CAP Column Says

Washington, D.C. — In light of the ongoing coronavirus outbreak and consistent with past practices taken during national disaster and other public health emergencies, the U.S. Department of Homeland Security (DHS) should issue a formal statement suspending all immigration enforcement actions in and around hospitals, health care facilities, and other testing sites, says a new column released today by the Center for American Progress.

The Trump administration’s immigration policies have already taken a toll in immigrant communities and their access to healthcare and important safety net programs. Amid the public health crisis that coronavirus already represents with more than 400 confirmed cases, authorities must ensure people can seek necessary medical care if needed—regardless of their immigration status. The failure to send a clear signal jeopardizes not only the health and well-being of affected individuals, but also hampers the country’s ability to mitigate the spread of the virus.

Throughout the years, administrations of both parties have adopted policies suspending immigration enforcement activities during times of natural disasters and other public health emergencies. During the Flint water crisis in Michigan, ICE suspended enforcement operations at or near clean water distribution sites and in surrounding areas affected by the situation. The Trump administration has largely honored past practice, suspending enforcement during and after hurricanes Harvey, Irma, Florence, and Dorian; the California wildfires in August 2018, November 2018, and October 2019; and tropical depression Imelda and tropical storm Barry.

Despite lawmakers in both the House and Senate urging DHS to take action and avoid targeting hospitals, testing sites, and other healthcare facilities, DHS authorities have yet to issue a formal statement suspending immigration activities to preserve life and safety during the coronavirus outbreak.

“It is inconceivable that, as public health officials urge the country to take steps to mitigate the further spread of the coronavirus, DHS refuses to issue a formal statement suspending immigration enforcement activities at or near hospitals, healthcare facilities, and other testing sites. Administrations of both parties—including the current administration—have issued such statements in times of crisis and the ongoing coronavirus outbreak demands nothing less. Choosing to prioritize the life and safety of all people should not be controversial; in fact, it is basic common sense,” says Tom Jawetz, vice president of Immigration Policies at the Center for American Progress and co-author of the column.


Related resources:

Trump is failing to lead on Coronavirus” by Katrina Mulligan and Alexandra Schmitt

Rural Communities Are the Most Vulnerable to Coronavirus” by Olugbenga Ajilore and Zoe Willingham

The Spread of Coronavirus Threatens Supply Shocks at Home and Abroad” by Marc Jarsulic


For more information or to speak to an expert, contact Claudia Montecinos at or (202) 481-8145.