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REUTERS/Monica Almeida/File photo
Representative Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez speaks during a campaign rally for Senator Bernie Sanders at Venice Beach in Los Angeles, California, U.S., December 21, 2019.

BY BETH DEDMAN

Congresswoman Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez and congressional delegates from the state of New York wrote a letter to the Department of Justice demanding answers on immigration courts’ proceedings during the COVID-19 crisis and called for Immigration and Customs Enforcement to release detainees.

“It is our understanding that these proceedings have been marred by inconsistent and frequently changing policies; the seeming impossibility of attorneys successfully filing documents that then reach the relevant immigration judge in a timely fashion; and frequent adjournments or cancellation, including of vitally important hearings such as bond hearings for people eligible for release from custody,” according to the letter. “During these urgent times of a global health crisis, we implore your agencies to release ICE detainees so that administrative proceedings for the duration of the COVID-19 pandemic are not necessary.”

The letter was co-signed by Rep. Jerrold Nadler, Rep. Carolyn Maloney, Rep. Grace Meng, Rep. José E. Serrano, Rep. Adriano Espaillat, Rep. Nydia M. Velázquez, Rep. Eliot L. Engel and Rep. Gregory W. Meeks.

“Today, I stand with Congresswoman Ocasio-Cortez and my New York colleagues in demanding answers about the operations of our nation’s immigration courts during this pandemic,” Rep. Grace Meng said. “We need clear and consistent policies at this time to ensure that our immigration court system is still working properly; that detainees and their attorneys are not left hanging in limbo; and that every precaution is being taken to protect the health and safety of all court stakeholders. I await a swift reply to our letter.”

Congresswoman Ocasio-Cortez has also led inquiries on the Trump administration’s new border travel restrictions, the treatment of unaccompanied minors in ICE custody during COVID-19 and the safety precautions and health measures being taken in all ICE detention facilities.

Ocasio-Cortez has also called for ICE to grant equal access to the online eBonds portal, as well as to consider other methods of payment by phone, or payment online through direct deposit systems for bond payments for detained individuals.

More information and updates about Ocasio-Cortez’s efforts and movements is available on her website.

This story first appeared on amny.com.

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