Pleasant View School Immigration Reform Group

1,808 supporters

    Started 1 petition

    Petitioning Department of Homeland Security

    Protect Those In ICE Custody Amid the COVID-19 Pandemic

    We demand that the United States Department of Homeland Security enforce public health and social measures in Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) detention centers to make sure those in custody are not in constant imminent risk of contracting COVID-19. The Department of Homeland Security website has information on safety precautions taken, but the last update to the page is shown to be May 4, 2020. Since May, the US has reached a record number of daily cases as well as total cases. The need for COVID-19 precautions in ICE detention centers is even more necessary now with the second wave of the virus and a new increase in cases. Unfortunately, in many ICE detention centers, the basic precautions are not taken. A client detained in the Mesa Verde ICE Processing Center in Bakersfield, California shared his experience:  “For washing your hands, there is just a shared cloth towel that is disgusting. There are a couple of bars of soap sitting out there for people to share, but it’s gross and people don’t want to touch them. I buy my own soap from commissary, so I don’t have to use the shared soap, but for some people that’s all there is. There’s no hand sanitizer, not even to buy in the commissary. I try to clean to avoid the virus, but I’m afraid it doesn’t work. I try to clean my bunk and the wall that my bunk is against. I clean it with a rag and a watered-down chemical solution. The rags are shared. No matter how careful I am, I still have to touch shared surfaces and pass very close by to others all day long. I am 51 and my health hasn’t been the same since my cancer. I lost approximately 20 pounds during my first few months in ICE detention.”  This shows how dire the situation is regarding healthcare and safety precautions during the COVID-19 pandemic.  It is essential for the maintenance of social distancing and medical care for those trapped in detention centers. It is impractical and a massive health risk to stuff a surmountable amount of people in one room in detention centers with COVID-19 cases rising faster than ever. Many of these detainees in detention centers have asthma, diabetes, or other pre-existing conditions that increase their vulnerability to COVID-19. According to the Immigration Justice Campaign, a man named Camilo, a Cuban asylum seeker, who worked as a health inspector and has a degree in hygiene and epidemiology, is concerned about the lack of COVID-19 prevention in detention He reports being detained with 30 other men, including some with asthma and diabetes, in an approximately 8- by 15-meter room, even though he and others in the room have experienced fevers, fatigue, dry coughs, and difficulty breathing. There needs to be better handling of the medical conditions of detainees, spacing, and cleanliness because if one person catches the virus in these small, clustered rooms, it can lead to a massive outbreak to workers, families, and other detainees. After COVID-19 was confirmed in family detention, a federal judge ordered ICE to release all children in its custody. ICE is forcing detained families to make an impossible choice: remain detained indefinitely along with their children during a pandemic, or release their children to a sponsor while the parents remain in detention, threatening widespread family separation. Especially during the pandemic with families separating not knowing who may have the virus this may even become a problem for all, if children are separated from their families without correct virus precautions.  There are many cost-effective and community based alternatives to detention that could help save these detainees and decrease the risk of them contracting the virus. Nonprofit community service providers and organizations are already providing help to immigrants, such as medical, legal, and housing services. “From May 2015 through October 2015, the Lutheran Immigration and Refugee Services (LIRS) operated a pilot program providing case management services to immigrants that included housing for families and access to legal services. LIRS also ran a Community Support Initiative from January 2012 through December 2015 which screened vulnerable individuals in ICE custody for release. The people who were released through the program had a 97% appearance rate in immigration court.” However, nonprofits should not have to take on this responsibility alone. It is ICE’s responsibility to protect detainees from such conditions so external organizations do not have to come in and interfere. In order to protect detainees from the virus, detention centers should enforce the COVID-19 guidelines from the CDC. The sick and those exposed should be separated from others. Each family should get a room with necessary supplies and the centers should try to sterilize the building as much possible.

    Pleasant View School Immigration Reform Group
    1,808 supporters