In the wake of COVID-19, many areas of law have been significantly affected. This can mean a significantly longer wait for a jury trial, attending hearings over zoom, and remote meetings between attorneys and clients. There are also ways that COVID-19 has affected substantive law, specifically within immigration law and policies. One example of this is through the Fraihat v. U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) decision, which has had a major impact on our immigration detention system and immigration policies to this day.
What is Fraihat v. ICE Community Resources?
Along with Fraihat v. U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement, Fraihat v. ICE Community Resources was a court decision from April 2020 in response to the detention of immigrants during the COVID-19 pandemic. This class action lawsuit alleged that the immigration detention centers across the United States had failed in their duty to ensure minimum lawful conditions of confinement at immigration facilities. As a result, U.S. Immigrations and Customs Enforcement is now required to affirmatively conduct custody re-determinations based on medical conditions that can exacerbate the symptoms of COVID-19. However, it is highly encouraged that requests are filed by individuals to ensure that their cases are reviewed.
What is the benefit of a Fraihat request?
Fraihat requests are a quick, efficient way to get people out of detention centers where they can better protect themselves against COVID-19. Typically, immigration procedures take months or years to complete. Once a Fraihat request has been submitted, ICE has five business days to review the request and make a determination. At that time, if the request is approved, the detainee is typically released within a few days.
Who does this information pertain to?
The Center for Disease Control has regularly posted and updated their list of contributing factors for COVID-19. Individuals who are or have a loved one detained under ICE custody should pay careful attention to this list to see if they have any health conditions that may qualify them for release. While health conditions such as cancer, liver and kidney disease, autoimmune diseases, and cardiovascular diseases are the first that we typically think of in relation to COVID-19, there are several other symptoms that are included on the CDC’s list of contributing factors. These include: being over the age of 55, obesity, psychiatric illness, pregnancy, diabetes, high blood pressure, and HIV/AIDS. For an up-to-date list of health conditions that may affect COVID-19, please check the CDC website.
What are my next steps?
If you or a loved one is detained and has a qualifying factor for COVID-19, there are several steps that you can take.
- Before completing the request, you must compile certain information. First, you must include the name, phone number, and address of a person who will agree to take responsibility of the individual seeking release during the process of their immigration case (a sponsor). This person must agree to house the individuals seeking release, support them financially, and make sure they attend all immigration court proceedings after release.
- Next, compile medical records that will serve as evidence that your loved one has received care for a condition in detention. Include all information possible, including documents that you believe ICE may already have in its records.
- If possible, you can attach letters of support from additional family members or members of the community.
- Now, complete the Fraihat request. This is a letter, directed to the ICE Assistant Field Office Director or Field Office Director of the facility where your loved one is being detained. There are several examples online of sample Fraihat requests. Organizations such as the Southern Poverty Law Center have pdfs that are easy to fill out and prepare to submit.
- Finally, submit the request, along with any supporting documents (medical records, support letters, etc.). This should be sent to the ICE Assistant Field Office Director or Field Office Director of the facility where your loved one is detained.
If you need help navigating these steps please contact us or any local immigration attorney for guidance.
Written by Madeline Bergstrom, Texas A&M University School of Law