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Some migrants detained in Louisiana are being released, lawyers say

HOUSTON — Immigration lawyers say the U.S. government has unexpectedly started to release detained migrants in Louisiana amid the ongoing coronavirus pandemic.

Several lawyers say they have been notified that U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement would start releasing their clients, some of whom had been previously denied parole. Nathalia Dickson, a lawyer in Baton Rouge, Louisiana, says she knows of 16 people who are being released from one jail.

ICE spokesman Bryan Cox says the threat of the coronavirus is one factor in an ongoing custody review process, but denied there had been a “policy change.”

The agency has faced pressure to reduce its population of roughly 36,000 detainees, about half of whom are accused of civil violations rather than a criminal offense. Experts have warned that the coronavirus outbreak could particularly harm jails where social distancing and other practices to control the spread are difficult.

ICE says six detainees have been confirmed to have COVID-19, none in Louisiana.