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Reckless ICE Evacuation Procedures Put Immigrants Detained in Louisiana Facilities at Risk During Hurricane Laura

NEW ORLEANS – As Hurricane Laura barreled through Louisiana, Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) never shared any emergency plans detailing how the agency would ensure the safety of the hundreds of immigrants in its custody throughout the state. Several detention centers were caught in the storm’s path, including South Louisiana Correctional Center, Allen Parish Public Safety Complex, Jackson Parish Correctional Center, Winn Correctional Center and Jackson Parish Correctional Center.  
 
Yesterday, the Southern Poverty Law Center (SPLC) received reports that ICE haphazardly evacuated Allen Parish Correctional Center. According to family members, ICE took no precautions to distance COVID-19 positive individuals as they ordered detained individuals into buses, potentially exposing the evacuees and those housed in the detention facilities to which they were transferred to the deadly virus. 
 
The following statement is from Luz Lopez, senior supervising attorney with the SPLC’s Immigrant Justice Project: 
 
“We are deeply concerned that ICE has not taken the necessary steps to ensure the safety and well-being of the human beings in its care. The devastation left in the wake of the storm, including wide-spread power outages, compounds existing crises of ICE detention in rural Louisiana: unsafe and dilapidated facilities, inaccessible hospitals and emergency care, and limited access to legal counsel and communication with the outside world. On top of that, we’ve fielded reports of careless evacuation processes, exposing potentially hundreds more to a deadly virus that ICE has failed to contain in their facilities. 
 
“Even before the threat of this storm, ICE’s Louisiana prisons have proven to be dangerous and deadly facilities for all who step foot inside. Again and again, the agency’s callous disregard for the human life in its care has resulted in tragedy after tragedy. ICE’s unpreparedness in this moment of crisis is a stark reminder that immigrants should not be incarcerated. They must be freed.”