ICE said Tuesday that it has finished complying with a court order to cut the population at a California detention center, but it’s meant releasing hundreds of immigrants with criminal records back onto the streets.
Acting Immigration and Customs Enforcement chief Tony Pham said the Adelanto ICE Processing Center had to cut its population from 730 to 465, and almost all of those were “criminal aliens,” meaning they had rap sheets. The agency said it fears they will go on to victimize others.
Judge Terry J. Hatter Jr., a Carter appointee to the federal bench in California, ruled earlier this month that the population had to be cut by 50 detainees a day until it got down to 475 people or fewer. He said the detainees couldn’t be transferred to other facilities in order to get around the order, saying the detainees either needed to be depaorted, if they could be, or released.
He ordered the elderly and those with risk factors for the coronavirus to be among the first released, then said to release those without felony convictions or outstanding arrests.
Mr. Pham didn’t detail the criminal charged he said were on the rap sheets of the people released, but complained that the judge’s order was “overreaching.”
“ICE has been placed in a difficult circumstance to comply with a binding order that completely contradicts our duty to this nation,” Mr. Pham said in a statement. “These criminal aliens have serious convictions and charges – releasing them is an extremely risky gamble to take with public safety.”
The judge, in his order, had accused the Trump administration of “dishonesty” in its claims during the case.
“The court is concerned that the facts and arguments that it previously perceived to be merely inaccurate or ambiguous might have been, actually, dishonest or, at best, disingenuous,” he wrote in his Oct. 15 order.
Across the country immigrant-rights advocates have gone to court to demand releases amid the pandemic, saying ICE facilities don’t abide by social distancing rules nor do they provide enough protective equipment.
As of last week ICE had just 18,099 people in its custody, and 651 of those were COVID-19 positive.
ICE lists eight detainees over the last seven months who contracted COVID and died while in the agency’s custody.