ICE says it could release vulnerable detainees

Migrant Centers

Detainees walk through the halls at the Stewart Detention Center, Friday, Nov. 15, 2019, in Lumpkin, Ga. Immigrants at Stewart are caught in a larger system of immigration courts where crushing caseloads and shifting policies have landed the courts in unprecedented turmoil. (AP Photo/David Goldman)

HOUSTON — U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement says it may release people from detention considered to be especially vulnerable to the coronavirus.

ICE says it has instructed local field offices to review the cases of people considered at greater risk of infection. That may include people 60 years old and older, pregnant women, or others with higher risk factors like underlying medical conditions.

The agency has faced pressure for weeks to reduce its detainee population from advocates and medical experts who warn the coronavirus is particularly dangerous in jails. ICE holds about 36,000 people in civil detention for immigration violations, though it says about half are convicted criminals or have pending charges.

So far, ICE says it has released more than 160 people and identified 600 detainees as “vulnerable.” It’s unclear how many of those people were released under court order.

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