comScore ICE Requests 45,000 Respirator Masks Amid Hospital Shortage

ICE Requested 45,000 Respirator And Surgical Masks For Immigration Enforcement Amid Hospital Shortage

coronavirus hospital masks

(ANGELA WEISS/AFP via Getty Images)

As hospital executives write public pleas for help with medical equipment shortages and leaders of groups like the American Medical Association (AMA) go on cable news networks calling on President Donald Trump to immediately address critical shortages of masks for medical personnel treating the coronavirus outbreak, Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) has requested 45,000 “respirator/surgical” masks for immigration enforcement, according to a public vendor request by the agency.

“ICE has a requirement for 45,000 N95 Particulate Respirator/Surgical Masks to be delivered to the all 26 ERO Field Offices,” the request states, specifying that they are for the agency’s enforcement and removal offices. “See attachment for delivery locations and quantities. Would like delivery within 30 days.”

A Los Angeles Times story last week detailed how ICE agents were continuing to spend their days arresting immigrants and running carefully planned stings, even as California Governor Gavin Newsom and Los Angeles mayor Eric Garcetti called for people to engage in social distancing and stay home. The story noted that the “agents had N95 respirator masks in their vehicles, just in case.”

While ICE has indicated they will slow immigration enforcement, their interest in running some operations as if nothing has changed comes as hospitals across the country face a dire shortage of respirator and surgical masks, with CDC guidance now loosened to the point that medical professionals engaged in the care of the sickest Americans, are being told to reuse their masks or use bandanas or scarves, which do not guarantee they will be able to safely treat patients without contracting the contagious virus themselves.

“As physicians, when we go into this profession we expect and accept some level of risk for infection,” AMA chief Dr. Patrice Harris told NBC News Friday, representing the largest association of doctors in the United States. “But to have our physicians on the frontline greeting patients who are suspected of — or do have — COVID-19 who don’t have masks, gowns and gloves is just unacceptable.”

While ICE did not respond to a request for comment before publication, the agency said on March 18 that enforcement and removal operations would focus on “public safety risks” and “individuals subject to mandatory detention based on criminal grounds” but would exercise discretion for those outside those categories “to delay enforcement actions until after the crisis or utilize alternatives to detention, as appropriate.”

As these immigration enforcement efforts continue, two doctors who work as experts for the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) sent a letter to Congress Friday warning that the “department should consider releasing all immigrant detainees who don’t pose a risk to public safety before it’s too late,” CNN reported, calling it an “imminent risk to the health and safety of immigrant detainees” and to the general public if the novel coronavirus spreads in ICE detention.


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