Johns Hopkins University's Contract to Provide Medical Training to ICE Ends After Student Protests

The Johns Hopkins University's longstanding contract to provide the U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) agency with emergency medical response training came to an official end this week, after the school decided to cut ties with the group following student protests.

The contract between ICE and Johns Hopkins University, which has been tracking the spread of the coronavirus pandemic, expired on Wednesday and was not set to be renewed.

It was listed as closed on the U.S. government's federal business opportunities website this week.

An ICE spokesperson confirmed to Newsweek on Thursday that the contract had been "closed and was scheduled to close at this time," bringing more than 15 years of collaboration to an end.

The development has been months in the making after the Johns Hopkins University, announced in September that it would not be renewing its contract with ICE, following student protests over the agency's role in enforcing the Trump administration's hardline immigration policies.

At the time, the university had said that its longstanding collaboration with federal law enforcement had been part of its "core missions of education and patient care."

In a statement published by Inside Higher Ed, the school explained that its program had focused on training emergency medical personnel and developing protocols for law enforcement officers to "provide immediate response to individuals in need."

However, after "careful and deliberate consideration," the university said it would be negotiating a transition period to allow for a "safe and orderly wrap up of the medical programs."

"We look forward to continuing to support the law enforcement community through meaningful work to ensure the safety of officers and the entire communities with whom they interact," Johns Hopkins University said.

Previously, the school had resisted pressure to end its collaboration with ICE.

In 2018, administrators responded to a petition calling on the school to stop working with the agency by asserting that it would be "wrong" to insist that the contracts be canceled.

In a statement, Johns Hopkins University President Ronald Daniels and Provost Sunil Kumar had thanked the petitioners for their "efforts to engage our community in debate around significant national policy issues and the work and role of our university," but said they believed it would be "wrong to insist that these contracts be terminated."

"Our reasoning is grounded in the university's longstanding deference to faculty decisions made in relation to their research, teaching, and clinical work," Daniels and Kumar said.

"This stance is an aspect of our more generalized commitment to the principle of academic freedom. We believe that it would be antithetical to the mission of the university if we were to insist that faculty members withhold instruction or medical care in order to have the university express its disapproval with certain aspects of current federal policy."

Daniels and Kumar had also sought to stress the university's "unwavering commitment to supporting our international and DACA students; offering broad access and support to our students, faculty, and staff without regard to immigration status, and providing exceptional care to immigrant and refugee populations in our hospitals and clinics in the United States and around the world.

"We have been unequivocal," they said at the time, "in our public statements concerning the consequences of recent immigration policies that have a clear, direct, and demonstrable impact on members of our university community."

The end of the university's contract with ICE comes at a time when the immigration agency is facing mounting scrutiny over its ability to protect and care for detainees amid the coronavirus pandemic.

As of Friday morning, 1,329 out of 2,670 detainees in ICE custody tested positive for coronavirus, while at least two detainees have died in the agency's custody due to complications associated with coronavirus.

The agency has also been forced to release as many as 392 detainees under court orders, with many detainees being released due to being considered vulnerable to suffering serious health consequences if they contract COVID-19.

ICE has pushed back against the releases, asserting in a statement on its website that "these are non-discretionary releases on the part of ICE, and as a result, they do not necessarily undergo the same public safety, flight risk, and/or medical analysis."

"ICE, working with DHS and DOJ, is actively litigating many of these court decisions," the agency said. "However, many of the individuals ordered released by federal courts have extensive criminal histories and pose a potential public safety threat." ICE has listed criminal charges and convictions of detainees who have been released on its website.

It is unclear how the termination of the contract between JHU and ICE will affect the agency going forward.

Asked how the development would impact ICE operations, as well as where the agency would be getting its emergency medical response training going forward, ICE did not immediately respond.

Newsweek also contacted Johns Hopkins University on the matter on Thursday. A spokesperson could not provide an immediate response.

ICE agent
Immigration and Customs Enforcement's (ICE) special agent preparing to arrest undocumented immigrant workers at Fresh Mark, Salem, June 19, 2018. ICE's contract with JHU ended on Wednesday, the agency has confirmed. Smith Collection/Gado/Getty