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Under Pressure, ICE Releases Two HIV-Positive Asylum Seekers


Activists want all people living with HIV freed from immigration detention centers.

Activists are ecstatic after Immigration and Customs Enforcement officials released two gay Cuban men living with HIV.

The men, only identified as Ramón and Iván, were recently allowed to leave a Texas ICE facility amid the COVID-19 pandemic, according to the Los Angeles Blade. In custody since October, Ramón and Iván were seeking asylum in the U.S., fearing for their lives in Cuba because of their sexual orientation and political activism.

“We are relieved that Iván and Ramón don’t have to spend one more day in the dangerous conditions of ICE detention, terrified of contracting COVID-19,” Immigration Equality Legal Director Bridget Crawford said in a statement.

“We are happy they are now safe and free, but lament the fact they were not released months ago. ICE has a moral obligation to free other asylum seekers like Iván and Ramón. They can and should release every single one of them today.”

Crawford's organization is one of several calling on ICE to release all HIV-positive detainees as COVID-19 wreaks havoc on their tightly-packed facilities. ICE notes that it has released around 900 medically at-risk detainees after considering their "immigration history, criminal record, potential threat to public safety, flight risk, and national security concerns." 

Medical officials advise that people living with HIV who adhere to their regimens and are virally suppressed face no additional risks from COVID-19 than those not living with HIV. Reports have indicated some HIV-positive ICE detainees have had trouble obtaining necessary medications. A Honduran trans refugee, Roxsana Hernandez, died in ICE custody in 2018, allegedly from HIV complications.

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Neal Broverman