WILKES: The ‘Abolish ICE’ Movement Maligns Border Personnel Working During The Coronavirus Pandemic

REUTERS/Brian Snyder

Alexandra Wilkes Contributor
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Over the course of the COVID-19 pandemic, America has had a refreshing conversation about the true heroes in our society. From medical professionals to truck drivers, work that was once considered unglamorous or even marginalized is finally being appreciated, and it’s overdue.

But not everyone gets the thanks they deserve. Every day, the men and women who staff our U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) facilities, including doctors, nurses, counselors, chaplains, detention officers and others are working hard. There’s no “work from home” option for a nurse working in an ICE facility, ensuring the health and safety of migrant detainees.

In a far cry from the wonderful displays of gratitude we see in the nightly “thank you” applause for first responders, there is a very different type of public demonstration taking place around the nation. Extremist activists are targeting ICE facilities. These activists are encircling immigration processing centers in their cars, calling the facilities COVID-19 “death camps” and demanding they be emptied and shut down.

So, we are seeing two reactions to the human tragedy of this COVID-19 pandemic.

One is a massive “thank you” to the doctors, nurses, EMTs and other workers on the front lines of this fight.

The other attempts to use a national crisis to achieve long-held political objectives – namely abolishing ICE and dismantling the federal infrastructure largely built by President Obama’s administration to safely and humanely address periodic surges of migrants across our southern border.

In order to really fire up their political base, these activists have to identify a bogeyman. In this case, they’re targeting the private sector contractors who have for years, under Democrat and Republican presidents, operated immigration processing centers in partnership with ICE.

The only problem? Government agencies and the courts determine if and when immigrant detainees are released – not the contractors.

Additionally, privately-run facilities have actively helped to mitigate the spread of coronavirus. Since the outset of this crisis, contractors have worked closely with local, state, and federal health officials – just as publicly-run facilities do – and have followed the most updated guidance from the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC).

For example, CoreCivic offered at no cost the use of available facilities to create critical care facilities for local COVID-19 patients.

But you won’t hear any of this from the activists targeting facilities on a daily basis. You also won’t hear about actions ICE is taking today to release hundreds of low-risk detainees to mitigate COVID-19 spread or similar moves by Attorney General William Barr in the federal prison system.

Meanwhile, every day, at significant personal risk, thousands of employees are at the forefront of fighting the COVID-19 pandemic. They put their lives on the line to keep the men and women in their care safe and healthy.

Just like others who are braving this fight, they deserve our respect and thanks, or at least a debate based on the facts rather than politically-motivated attacks.

Alexandra Wilkes is national spokeswoman for the Day 1 Alliance, a trade association representing private sector contractors helping address corrections and detention challenges in the United States.