Let Immigrants Detained in Georgia Quarantine at Home

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Dear Governor Brian P. Kemp and Dr. Kathleen E. Toomey,

As concerned residents of Georgia, we are making sacrifices to protect ourselves, our loved ones, and all residents of Georgia from COVID-19. Healthcare workers are risking their lives and as the number of confirmed cases in Georgia surpasses 18,000, we are doing what we can to flatten the curve.

The Georgia Department of Public Health's Daily Status Report confirms what we already know: counties in South Georgia, and especially counties in Southwest Georgia have been hit the hardest. Hospitals in South Georgia are already managing a heroic response to the pandemic. These same hospitals would bear the added burden of responding to a medical emergency caused by the spread of COVID-19 in immigration detention.

Immigrants and detention center staff should be self-quarantining at home. The continued detention of immigrants in crowded detention centers and jails puts their lives at risk and threatens to undermine all our efforts, by accelerating the spread of COVID-19 in Georgia and overwhelming our healthcare system.

Dr. Toomey and Governor Kemp, we ask that you immediately act to protect the health of detained persons, facility staff, healthcare workers, and communities throughout Georgia by:

  1. Contacting ICE leadership, Field Office Director Thomas P. Giles, and requesting the immediate and orderly release of the people detained in the Robert A. Deyton Detention Facility, Stewart Detention Center, Irwin County Detention Center, and the Folkston ICE Processing Center;
  2. Advising on the steps necessary to preserve the public health of detained individuals, facility staff, healthcare workers, and the larger community during a coordinated release; and
  3. Sending health inspectors to the aforementioned detention centers, to monitor conditions, and report on COVID-19 response plan implementation.

Thousands of doctors have called for ICE to release the people in their custody for many reasons, not the least of which is that there is no meaningful social distancing in a detention center. In the last month, judges across the country have ordered that thousands of incarcerated individuals be allowed to quarantine at home, and the Attorney General has called for the Bureau of Prisons to release as many people as possible.

To slow down the transmission of COVID-19 in Georgia, ICE must work with public health professionals to make a plan that protects the health and well-being of those in their custody. ICE must be transparent about the state of their facilities, and ICE must allow detainees and detention center staff to quarantine at home, while clearly communicating their actions. We ask your help to bring ICE to the table.

This pandemic calls for an orderly evacuation of immigrant detention centers in Georgia. Evacuating these detention centers now will save lives. We hope that you will act to protect the health of detained persons, facility staff, healthcare workers, and communities throughout Georgia.