Approve International Prisoner Transfers of non-violent "aliens" to help fight COVID-19

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The spread of COVID-19 is a worldwide emergency that threatens potentially millions of lives; current projections indicate that the U.S. death toll could range between 200,000 to more than 2.2 million people. 41,239 people already died worldwide; more than 3.000 people in the United States (03/31/2020). 

Correctional facilities, especially privately run (BOP-)facilities for "aliens" (= non-U.S. citizen, who will be deported after serving their sentece), represent the perfect breeding ground for COVID-19. The nature of correctional facilities, as well as the difficulties of maintaining proper hygiene inside facilities, mean that the virus will likely spread like wildfire once introduced. 

There are only a few privately run prisons (only 10 prisons in seven states) in the United States for "aliens", in which  deportable immigrants are segregated from the general prison population. Due to the fact, that most of the inmates will be deported after finishing their sentence, those prisons are even more poorly equipped than "normal" federal or state prisons. This does not only include not having access to reentry-focused release preparation programs or drug-treatment programs but also and especially a lack of adequate medical care. 

As the legal scholar Emma Kaufman notes, in an article in the Harvard Law Review, inmates in foreign-only, or Criminal Alien Requirement (C.A.R.), facilities make up ten per cent of the over-all population in federal prisons, and they have far fewer protections. Kaufman writes, “All foreign prisons are not only places where foreigners are separated from the rest of the penal population. They are also stripped-down institutions with fewer services than other federal prisons.” Because the inmates will be deported at the end of their terms, they have become a “distinct class of prisoners” whose status has led “prison officials to funnel foreign nationals into remote prisons with fewer resources.”

Basically all privately run BOP-prisons are overcrowded, which leads to inhumane conditions. While the whole world is practicing "social distancing" to help decreasing the spread of COVID-19 to save lives, detained immigrants are forced to sleep in 60 to 100-man dormitories, where the much needed social distancing is in no way possible. Prison population is more likely to have chronic health conditions that render them particularly vulnerable to both infection and serious medical complications. This is not only a serious threat for correctional employees, but could also be a death sentence for thousands of inmates. Especially inmates, with basically no access to medical healthcare. 

Deportable immigrants are always arbitrarily discriminated by the Department of Justice due to their immigration-status. But this discrimination has to end now to help fight the spread of Covid-19 and to save lives.

All lives matter, also those from deportable immigrants. 

There are more than 30.000 Foreign National Inmates in Federal Prisons the United States and the most common offenses among those inmates are - non violent -  drugs and immigration offenses. Around 70% are low-security-level. 

Many of those inmates applied for an International Prisoner Transfer to their home country. Around 90 % of all applications for an International Prisoner Transfer are rejected because "they determined the inmates were ineligible or not suitable for transfer". The decisions of the International Prisoner Transfer Unit are often in no way comprehensible and also the Office Of the Inspector General (OIG) found, that the International Prisoner Transfer Unit makes very inconsistent decisions (f.e. different decisions for inmates with similar circumstances). 

Now it's time to stop the arbitrariness to save lives! 

Deportable immigrants shall be eligible to apply for an Internatinal Prisoner Transfer prior to the 2-year-period and the International Prisoner Transfer Unit has to approve Transfer requests of 

  • elderly and medically vulnerable, including individuals who are pregnant or who have asthma, chronic illness, lung disease, or heart disease.
  • non-violent offenders with less than 30-months remaining on their sentence. 

and also has to process their Transfer Request and execute Transfers of foreign citizen to their home countries as soon as possible. 

The Transfer of inmates to their home country would not only make room in those overcrowded private prisons (which is definitely required to decrease/slow the spread of Covid-19), but also assures that an inmate - in case of emergency - gets the needed medical care in his/her country of citizenship. 

Even though those offenders in foreign-only-facilities are not U.S.-citizens, they are still human. And they deserve human treatment too, their lives matter too! Every death is one dead person too much - does not matter which citizenship, race or color. And that is the reason, why everything that is possible should be done, to decrease the spread of Covid-19 to minimize the amount of people, we lose. 

All lives matter, also those from deportable immigrants.


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