Urgent Action Update: Free Families Kept in Immigration Detention (USA: UA 116.20)

October 2, 2020

As COVID-19 runs rampant in USA family detention centers, immigration authorities continue to lock up nearly ninety families who travelled to the US seeking safety from violence and persecution in their home countries. As of 6 August, at least 130 detained family members and facility staff tested positive for COVID-19. In July, a judge ordered authorities to release children because of COVID-19, but she did not have jurisdiction over parents. Authorities refused to release them together. Releasing children but continuing to detain parents constitutes family separation. We demand authorities release all families together immediately to protect them from the pandemic.



  1. Write a letter in your own words or using the sample below as a guide to the government official listed below. You can also email, fax, call or Tweet them.
  2. Click here to let us know the actions you took on Urgent Action 116.20. It’s important to report because we share the total number with the officials we are trying to persuade and the people we are trying to help.


Acting Director Tony Pham
U.S Immigration and Customs Enforcement
500 12th St., SW
Washington, D.C. 20536
Email: [email protected]


Dear Acting Director Pham,

I am deeply concerned about the safety and wellbeing of Ana* and Victoria*, Marilin* and Yunior*, Juana* and Norma*, and all other families detained by Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE).

With at least 130 confirmed cases of COVID-19 in family detention, families face grave complications and even death if they contract the virus. Families continue to report credible, consistent, and disturbing accounts of dangerous conditions that put them, facility staff, and surrounding communities at risk.

These families came to the United States seeking protection from violence and persecution. They must be able to pursue the right to seek asylum in safety.

As the acting head of ICE, you are responsible for their health and safety and must take all appropriate steps to protect them from COVID-19.

I call on you to release all the families together. Parents must be released with their children to preserve family unity – as separation is never in the best interests of the child.