Letters of immigrants detained by ICE during coronavirus made public: 'We may die and are afraid'

‘They also ignored deliberately the symptoms we suffer from the Covid-19 pandemic’

Justin Vallejo
New York
Wednesday 24 June 2020 19:38
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Immigrant advocates created video in protest of conditions inside an ICE detention center in Glades County, FL

Almost 200 pages of handwritten letters have opened a window into the alleged living conditions of illegal immigrants held in US federal detention centres during the coronavirus pandemic.

During a three-month lawsuit seeking their release from US Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) in South Florida, the US District Court received personal missives from about 100 detainees.

“We may die and are afraid,” their collective note said, according to The Miami Herald.

The note, dated 16 April, pleaded with magistrate Jonathan Goodman to help them immediately or send investigators.

“We were served spoiled food, we’re starving, bathrooms are bad, violations of rights... beds are two feet apart and not six feet apart,” they wrote.

The letters were made public on Monday when Mr Goodman submitted the letters to US District Judge Marcia Cooke as part of the lawsuit, which seeks the release of detainees from Krome Processing Centre in Miami-Dade, the Broward Transitional Centre in Pompano Beach, and the Glades County detention centre in Moor Haven.

Detainee Rodney London wrote on 10 June that he was unable to speak to his deportation officer because the coronavirus lock-downs wouldn’t allow travel to South Florida.

“So if they do not want to be here, or not allowed to come, why on earth should we be detained here, our lives matter just as much as the next person,” Mr London wrote.

“This shows a total disregard for our safety and well being, and should not be the way human beings act especially not during this Covid-19 pandemic....No one should be forgotten or left to die at any facility in the United States of America, especially now.”

Detainee James Bishop wrote on 17 May that ICE officials “lied about sanitising beds sick people slept on”.

“They also ignored deliberately the symptoms we suffer from the Covid-19 pandemic,” Mr Bishop wrote. “We requested to be released and [guards] and ICE officers beat us.”

ICE told the court it was aware of claims detainees who test positive for coronavirus are mixed in with the untested, plus allegations of a lack of masks, no social distancing, inadequate soap and hand sanitiser, according to The Herald’s report.

ICE’s 22-page submission reportedly said there were currently no detainees being quarantined and that the agency follows all federal guidelines. They also moved to get funding for more sanitising and cleaning supplies, while also developing systems for social distancing, mask distribution and pandemic educational materials.

“I am aware that some detainees have alleged that they are not provided masks, or that staff at Krome or Glades have not worn their masks while in contact with detainees,” said Liana J Castano, ICE’s Miami assistant field office director, according to the outlet.

“In order to document this practice, Krome staff have created a mask issuance receipt for incoming detainees and require that the detainee sign for the mask upon intake.”

A statement from ICE to The Independent said: “Since there is pending litigation on this subject, ICE cannot provide further comment. That said, lack of comment should not be construed as agreement with or stipulation to any of the allegations."

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