Free Them All: Open Letter to ICE Houston Office Field Director

Paul A. McBride
Acting ICE Houston Field Office Director
126 Northpoint Drive
Houston, TX 77060

April 13, 2020

Dear Acting Field Office Director McBride:

People in immigration detention are particularly vulnerable to the spread of disease, especially those who are living with disabilities, illnesses, or are immunocompromised. They do not have access to adequate healthcare or living conditions. The 4,000 people held in four Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) detention centers in the Houston region are at serious risk of infection if COVID-19 enters a facility. These people are living in dormitories that hold up to eighty people – there is no way to socially distance in these facilities.

Several recent lawsuits demand the release of detainees in several states, including Texas. Federal judges have ordered the release of detainees in Pennsylvania, New Jersey, California, New York, and Massachusetts. ICE has also paroled detainees in Colorado

COVID-19 has reached detention facilities in the Greater Houston area and ICE will be unable to contain the spread. We are aware of recent reports that one employee and one detainee at the Montgomery Processing Center tested positive for COVID-19. ICE has also confirmed that one staff person at the Houston Contract Detention Facility (HCDF) has tested positive for COVID-19. Those in close confinement are at increased risk of infection, which could easily spread throughout the facility. ICE must release them at the advice of public health experts.

Keeping people in detention risks the health and safety of the wider Houston community. An outbreak at a detention center will harm the people detained there, the detention center staff and their families, and the wider Houston community, as detainees with serious symptoms will require medical treatment at local hospitals. 

The Houston Leads Coalition is calling on ICE to:
  1. Immediately release all immigrants detained in the four ICE facilities in the Greater Houston Area, including Montgomery Processing Center, IAH Secure Adult Facility, Joe Corley, and Houston Contract Detention Center. 
  2. Cease issuing detainers for people held in Harris County’s Joint Processing Center and all Houston area jails to keep people out of ICE detention and lower the risk of COVID-19 transmission. 
  3. Withdraw all existing detainers for individuals eligible for release from criminal custody.
  4. Stop apprehensions of individuals in the Greater Houston area.
  5. Stop all deportations. If ICE chooses to effectuate a removal, each person should be tested for COVID-19 prior to removal. Anyone who tests positive should not be deported, as this threatens to further expand the global pandemic.  

We demand that ICE suspend all immigration enforcement activities. Our community should not live in fear of arrest, detention, or deportation during this global pandemic. This includes arrests in homes, at clinics or hospitals, places of work, public areas, and on any mode of transportation.

As a community, we all have an obligation to decrease exposure. ICE must also take proactive measures to decrease exposure and avoid overwhelming our healthcare system, which is already dealing with shortages of medical staff, masks, hospital beds, and ventilators.

We are calling for compassion to be shown to our immigrant community members who are in peril inside of detention centers. ICE must consider the public health and safety of their employees, their families, our detained population, and our larger community during this time period. Individuals who are jailed in immigration facilities must be released so that they may care for family, educate their children, and be close to loved ones.


Houston Leads Coalition
Texas Organizing Project (TOP)
United We Dream
Houston Immigration Legal Services Collaborative
Tahirih Justice Center (Houston)
Mi Familia Vota
Immigrant Legal Resource Center (ILRC)
YMCA of Greater Houston
Living Hope Wheelchair Association
Equal Justice Center
Texas Appleseed
OCA-Greater Houston
The Alliance
Detention Watch Network
Houston Migrant Outreach Coalition
Coalition of Community Organizations
Center for the Healing of Racism
Freedom for Immigrants
Black Lives Matter: Houston
Sin Huellas Artist Collective
Texas Environmental Justice Advocacy Services
Progress Texas
Border Crit Institute
National Latina Institute of Reproductive Justice
Multiethnic Community Center
Migrant Rights Collective
African Public Affairs Committee (AfriPAC)
Resurrection MCC
First Unitarian Universalist Church of San Antonio Social Justice Committee

Marjorie Joseph, Executive Director Houston Coalition Against Hate
Fredi Bleeker Franks, Religious Action Center-TX
Debra Hernandez, Organizer, Raices Texas
Brian Lisco, Pure Justice
Dianna Williams, Texas Advocates for Justice Houston
Monica Myint, KIND
Jodi Berger Cardoso, PhD, LCSW
Rosalie W. Hyde LCSW, S, Houston Galveston Trauma Institute
Daniela Melendez, United We Dream
Gary Reece, Tao Technology
Roberto Eduardo Quijano, Law Offices of Hector J. Lopez*
Mario Varela, Law Office of Mario Varela*
Yalila Guerrero, Guerrero Law Group LLC*
Tania Buitron, The Buitron Law Firm, P.C.*
Misbah Chaudhry, Misbah Chaudhry & Associates PLLC*
Michael Urbanowich, Law Offices of Sunita Kapoor, P.C.
Sunita Thereja-Kapoor, Law Offices of Sunita Kapoor, P.C.*
Anuj Arun Shah, Anuj A. Shah, P.C.*
Salvador Colon, Salvador Colon, P.C.*
Raed Gonzalez, Gonzalez Olivieri LLC Immigration Law Firm*
Yvette De Luna, Gonzalez Olivieri, LLC*
Amanda Waterhouse, Gonzalez Olivieri, LLC*
Martha E. Garza, Martha E Garza P.C.*
Uche Nwaneri, Premium Law Firm, PLLC*
Magali Suárez Candler, Suarez Candler Law, PLLC*
Rebecca Chavez, Suarez Candler Law, PLLC*
Olubusayo Fasidi, Olubusayo Fasidi, Attorney at Law*
Emma Ibarra, Ibarra-Martinez Law PLLC*
Amy Donnelly Ashby Donnelly-Ashby & Nguyen, PLLC*
Kamran Makhdoom, Kamran I Makhdoom PLLC*
Esther Noh, The Law Firm of Esther S. Noh*
Sakiko Yoshioka, Sakiko Yoshioka, Attorney at Law*
Elizabeth M. Mendoza Macias, Elizabeth M. Mendoza, P.C.*
Alfonso Venegas, Law Office of Alfonso Venegas, PLLC*
Mairim Alonso, Alonso & de Leef, PLLC*
Sheila Rivera, Sheila Rivera Law Office PLLC*
Aracely Garcia-Houston Field Coordinator, National Latina Instute of Reproductive Justice
Rev. Guy Coby Cagle
Rabbi David Segal
Rev. Laura Mayo
Rev. Vickey Gibbs
Rev. James L Caldwell
Zenobia Lai, Esq.
Rosemary Vega*
Geoffrey A. Hoffman*
Alondra Andrade
Jeril Bills
Elissa Steglich*
Sunita Kapoor
Hina Azam
Katherine Atkiss
Joana Rebollo
Autoosa Abadi
Brendon Krall
Katie Weir
Cameron Weir
Lauren Johnson
Carlos M Pena Reyes
Cindy Edith Ramirez
Elizabeth Peterson
Luke Whitney
Nick Thixton
Melissa Huckabay
Rachel Schneider
Kathy McDougall
Jessica Smith
Michelle Tovar
Jorge Cruz
Celina Garibay
Laura Wev
Elsa Jimenez
Maria Cortes
Irene Greaves
Melissa Rowlett
Meredith Gudesblatt
Jesse David Ferman
Denise Adriana Rosales
Jessica Bautista
David Michael Smith
Tony Gamage
Mackenzie Levy
Angela Caravello
Kelly Johnson
Robert H. Etnyre, Jr.*
Karina Jimenez
Richard Prinz*
Shaun Smith
Natalie Clifford
Sylvia Carrion
Viva Bacorn
Jasmine Allmon
Joan Camacho
Juan Livas
Juan C. Camacho
Jan Williams
Paula Arnold
George Krezinski
Elizabeth Weedman
Melanie Scheidler
Paola Hernández
Amy M. Mena*
Wafa Abdin*
Hope Sanford
Sean Fitzpatrick, PhD, LPC
John L. Hagan
Denise Gilman*

*Member of the American Immigration Lawyers Association

Uplift on Social Media

  • Sample Tweet 1

We demand @ICEgov immediately release all immigrants detained in the four #ICE facilities in #Houston, which house over 4,000 people.

@houston_leads #FreeThemAll #COVID19 #FreeThemAllHouston

  • Sample Tweet 2

STOP the @ICEgov arrest-to-detention pipeline for people held in ALL #HarrisCounty and #Houston jails to keep people out of detention and lower the risk of #COVID19 transmission.

@houston_leads #FreeThemAll #FreeThemAllHouston

  • Sample Tweet 3

During the #COVID19 pandemic, remove all @ICEgov barriers for people eligible for release from jail.

@houston_leads #FreeThemAll #FreeThemAllHouston

  • Sample Tweet 4

#COVID19 detention puts people at an even greater risk of harm to their life and health. We demand @ICEgov stop apprehensions of individuals in #Houston

@houston_leads #FreeThemAll #FreeThemAllHouston

  • Sample Tweet 5

#StopAllDeportations If @ICEgov won’t stop, each person should be tested for #COVID19 prior to removal. Anyone who tests positive should NOT be deported to stop the spread of this global pandemic.

@houston_leads #FreeThemAll #FreeThemAllHouston