By the time the coronavirus pandemic reached a crisis level in the United States in March, José Velásquez had already spent almost 900 days in Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) detention. A Guatemalan asylum seeker, Velásquez had celebrated his 18th and 19th birthdays behind bars, and, as the pandemic worsened, he worried about making it to his 20th. Over the course of two years in the notorious Adelanto detention center in California, the teenager had developed serious hypertension, a condition that put him at high risk of dying if he caught COVID-19. Fearing for his safety in the cramped conditions of the detention center, his attorneys requested ICE consider paroling him in light of the pandemic. (Velásquez had never been accused of a crime and had legally asked for asylum.) ICE refused, even as prisons and jails across the state released prisoners to prevent outbreaks behind bars.

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