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Borderland advocacy groups plead for migrant detainees release due to virus

EL PASO, Texas -- Several migrant advocacy groups, like Las Americas and the ACLU, filed a formal complaint against the federal government on Tuesday.

The complaint says agencies like CBP and ICE are failing  to provide social distancing and basic protection against Covid-19 even when someone near a migrant is showing symptoms.

As a result, the group is now calling for the release of non-violent migrants.

The director of Annunciation House says they are prepared to take in these migrants if a release happens. The El Paso Catholic Diocese also weighed in.

“This will protect the detainees, our immigration enforcement personnel, and out entire El Paso community,” said El Paso's Catholic Bishop Mark Seitz.

Seitz joined a group of immigrant advocates and local political figures asking the federal government for the release of non-violent migrants during the virus pandemic.

“It makes absolutely no sense to keep a concentrated population in detention, in facilities that do not lend themselves to social isolation,” said Annunciation House director Ruben Garcia.

That's why the migrant advocacy groups filed their complaint alleging failure to provide social distancing and the absence of sanitary conditions to protect migrants from Covid-19.

The group says without the proper care, federal workers who are allowed to go inside and outside the detention centers could expose detainees to the virus.

Asked if the release would encourage another wave of migrants, Garcia says protocols, such as Migrant Protection, third-country agreements and the Mexican National Guard are already in place to prevent that from happening.

“All of those already, prior to the coronavirus, had already significantly reduced the flow of migrants into the El Paso Sector,” said Garcia, whose hospitality group received and cared for thousands of migrants seeking asylum during last year’s unprecedented surge.

Coronavirus Video / El Paso / News / Video

Saul Saenz

El Paso native Saul Saenz is a veteran reporter who also hosts ABC-7 Extra.

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